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This NYT article about Elon Musk’s politics hurting Tesla sales is so stupid

Published Jul 2nd, 2024 8:36PM EDT
Elon Musk
Image: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

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Let me preface what I’m about to write by noting that I don’t own a Tesla, and I’m not an Elon Musk fanboy. But it wouldn’t matter if I was — the facts are the facts when it comes to his electric car company’s progress, as well as any third-party analysis of it. Earlier this year, for example, Consumer Reports described the Tesla Model Y as quite simply “the best electric vehicle on the market today.”

Among its benefits, CR continued, it shares features like the quick acceleration that you also see from other electric cars on the market today. But “the Model Y shines with responsible steering, frequent over-the-air updates, and access to Tesla’s extensive Supercharger Network, eliminating range anxiety for longer trips.”

That sounds to me like the kind of thing you’d want to base a Tesla purchase decision on, right? And the same with this, also from CR’s overview about the Model Y:

“It’s the sweet spot of the EVs. They’ve been around long enough that they’re not a brand-new car company anymore. So they’re working out making sure the doors can close and stuff like that. But they’re also quite the veterans when it comes to electric powertrains, so it’s kind of a sweet spot. And throw on to that fact that the Supercharger Network is just not even close to the experience that anyone else would have with another EV, at least for now.”

Again, all of that seems to me like exactly the kinds of things you’d look into before actually buying the car — along with other things like cost, performance, and overall reliability. Unfortunately, given the world that we live in, there’s also something else worth pointing out here: Nowhere in that CR analysis will you find a mention of Elon’s personal political beliefs.

Why do I bring that up? Because some people think those beliefs should, in fact, matter.

To believe this maddeningly inane story that The New York Times published on Tuesday, for example, is to believe that Tesla’s quarterly sales drops in each of the first two quarters this year can be explained by Elon’s politics scaring away buyers. “As Mr. Musk’s public persona has become increasingly right wing, Tesla appears to be paying a price in sales, especially to liberal and left-leaning customers who are much more likely to buy battery-powered cars than conservatives are,” the newspaper wrote.

Tesla Model Y
A Tesla Model Y fully electric EV is displayed during Everything Electric London 2024 at ExCel on March 28, 2024, in London, England. Image source: John Keeble/Getty Images

Setting aside whether or not that’s even likely, that’s obviously a dumb thing to let influence your decision about buying a Tesla.

For starters: If a professional car analysis, like the one I quoted above, doesn’t take Elon’s politics into account … why should you? That makes about as much sense to me as shying away from this or that company because you don’t like the CEO’s favorite band.

Furthermore, I can guarantee you Elon doesn’t care what his customers’ politics are — which is to say, again, why should those customers likewise care about his? Elon will just as happily accept a down payment from an MSNBC devotee as he will from a hardcore MAGA loyalist or some kind of fringe anarchist. All of your money is the same color.

To the extent this kind of thing is happening at all — that is, Elon’s beliefs turning some people away — I think that what’s going on here can partly be explained by a degree of confirmation bias. Take a closer look at that NYT story, and it notes that the conclusions were drawn from analysts as well as “many car owners who responded to a questionnaire on The New York Times’s website about whether (Elon’s) behavior affected their views of Tesla.”

A-ha, now we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we. How many Elon fanboys do you think not only read the NYT but would also respond to a questionnaire from it?

Consider this your reminder that well-adjusted people generally don’t filter the entirety of their daily lives, from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep at night, through the prism of politics. That would be such an uninspiring way to live. In other words, don’t be like this product designer at Microsoft who presumably told the NYT with a straight face in regards to Tesla owners: “You’re basically driving around a giant red MAGA hat.”

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.