Tesla: Why do car buffs dislike it but nerds love it?

Why Do Car Buffs Dislike Tesla?

Why Do Car Buffs Dislike Tesla?

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Oct. 11 2015 7:14 AM

Why Do Car Buffs Dislike Tesla?

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during an event to launch the Tesla Model X Crossover SUV on Sept. 29, 2015, in Fremont, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Answer by Mike Barnard, I used to be a BMW loyalist, but now it's Tesla all the way:

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Because car buffs are almost all nostalgia weenies. Most love a specific marque, often because of something that happened decades before. They obsess about the history. They've owned half a dozen of that marque and wish they could own a dozen more. I've known and know Porsche nuts, BMW nuts (my hand is up), Mustang nuts, and more.

They are obsessed with all the microscopic—and obsolete—details of why their marque is better than everyone else's. This is harmless, just like obsessing about baseball stats, and they'll happily kibitz with car buffs who love other marques, watch stuff on other marques, ride around in one another's cars, and generally be car nerds.

But there's a strong thread through car nuts: What works better gets attention. People who prefer something that works poorly are really saying that they are about a specific driving experience, not real and raw performance. People who don't like traction control aren't interested in the fastest lap times but the purest ones, whatever that means, or in getting their car sideways in turns as they burn a few sawbucks of rubber off of their tires. People who don't like dual-clutch automatics and paddle shifters aren't interested in the fastest 0-60 or lap times; they are interested in slower, but more nostalgically pure, shifting. People who don't like hybrid race cars and production supercars are saying that they don't like better all-around performance—they just really only love things with cylinders and pistons, make of that what you will.

And people who don't like the Tesla are mostly making shit up that justifies their aesthetic preference for being slower. The Tesla doesn't make noise like nostalgists enjoy because it doesn't waste energy making noise. They pretend this is a mark against it, when it's at best an aesthetic preference, like whether pastel or puce is better on the kitchen wall. It's completely immaterial, but they will not shut up about it. The Tesla doesn't get hot like cars they like because it isn't losing 70 percent of the energy in its fuel as waste heat. It doesn't require shifting like cars they like because electric motors are vastly superior. It has much better traction control because the motor delivers a very consistent and predictable amount of power to the wheels, which is variable in minute increments because electric motors are vastly superior. And it has more than adequate range for people who aren't trekking across the Sahara by themselves, but enables them to find something to dislike.

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The quickest two current production cars are gas-electric hybrids because they have to be electric in order to be in the game. They are both slower than a little electric car built by some college students that hits 60 in 1.779 seconds, and they aren't much faster than the current Tesla, which weighs twice what they weigh, seats five adults comfortably, and has a sound system that you can hear.

And in 2019, I can pretty much guarantee that they will be slower than the Tesla Roadster. I'm predicting 2 seconds to 60, skidpad, slalom, and braking of the gods, and 400 miles of range for the Roadster. Any takers?

People claiming to be true car buffs who don't like the ascendancy of electrics are really nostalgists. They like grease under their fingernails as a signifier—mostly to themselves and a subset of their males friends—of a certain type of manliness. They are stuck in the past, not even surfing the present, never mind inhabiting the future with Tesla. That's all fine. Like people who prefer classic French wines to the really amazing wines out of California, Venezuela, Australia, or New Zealand, there's room enough for both types in the world.

For a while. In the future, there isn't room for people who think that burning million-year-old dead plants and blowing a ton of pollution and carbon into the atmosphere in order to go slower is a good thing. There's just room to put them out to pasture with old YouTube videos and maybe analog amplifiers to make the sound fuzzy and distorted.