Tesla and Elon Musk have experienced a few ups and downs over the past few weeks. Now, they've made a product that mimics what that's like on the open seas.
The Limited Edition Tesla Surfboard is already out of stock, but it was available just a few days ago in red and black. Designed in cooperation with Lost Surfboards, the collector's item even fits "comfortably" inside the brand new Model 3 sedan and other models. As the description says: "The deck is reinforced with light-weight Black Dart carbon fiber, inspired by the interiors in our cars, and featuring tonal logos in subtle contrast gloss."
Sounds like a company trying to distract us from the real problems.
For starters, Elon Musk has not been making as many friends on Twitter these days. He recently called a Thai cave diver a "pedo" in a tweet he has since deleted. Then, he made a crude comment about Miley Cyrus. Of course, if you check his feed you will see thousands of positive comments from his personal hive mind (er, fan base), but for the general public, these outbursts make headlines and tend to cause serious problems for Tesla.
One is public perception. Part of my job is to test and review cars, and I've tested around 500 of them in seven years. For the everyday driver, people who just need to get to work on time, the Model 3 is supposed to be a mainstream electric car.
These are buyers who don't care that much about spaceships and flamethrowers (or surfboards), and they see Musk as a celebrity co-founder who has an uneven temperament on Twitter, sometimes posting views that seem antithetical to what you might expect from the person who runs a car company. They are looking for assurance that buying a car that costs $49,000 will be a smart idea and not a really bad mistake.
There's no person in recent memory with so much cachet as Elon Musk. Even writing about him in a slightly negative way (even though I've praised him countless times) could create a backlash. What's a little troubling here is that there doesn't seem to be a throttle. Twitter has created an open forum and a free exchange of ideas among the tech elite; it's also a troll haven where insults, public thrashings, outright abuse, and threats run rampant.
The mass public? They stopped using Twitter a few years ago. The number of new users is in decline. No one cares, except when a tweet crosses from the hive mind to the general public, where it is dissected, analyzed, and exposed in safety, away from the troll bombardment. Few people see the actual tweets and the fan base defense. They only see that the co-founder of a car company called a Thai diver a pedo--and that's about it.
And, the bigger question, apart from the string of eyebrow-raising tweets, is whether the Model 3 is really the everyman and everywoman car that Tesla wants it to be.
You might say a limited edition surfboard is a way to create buzz, and Tesla is a different type of company. You might like the wild tangents and digressions; but if you mainly want to buy a car, get a tax credit, and drive to work without having to charge up halfway to your destination, the Model 3 might actually make sense. 310 miles per charge is an attractive, sensible range for weekly commutes.
Is the company itself attractive and sensible? That's what I wonder about sometimes.