“I used to think when people cut me off it was because I was in a fancy car. These days when someone cuts me off, I wonder if it’s because of Elon.”
My brother-in-law Brandon Luce was sounding slightly paranoid when I was talking to him recently in the wake of Elon Musk taking over Twitter. But in the days since Musk made the controversial purchase, and has vied to become perhaps the most polarizing man in America, many owners of their beloved Teslas are in a similar emotional quandary.
Brandon was among a half-dozen Tesla owners I talked with to see to what degree, if at all, their opinions of the man so closely identified with their car has changed recently and how that’s impacted their Tesla-owning experience.
Almost every person began not by venting about any recent Musk tweets but by expressing their intense love for their Tesla. Many of them added in gushing admiration for Musk himself, at least back when they first bought the car. Luce, my brother-in-law, saw Musk as a genius — and a humble one at that — when he bought a Model 3 a few years back.
Now, he says of Musk, “He’s become like a pariah. He’s saying things that don’t jibe with the way I look at the world at all.”
For the ranting of the company CEO to become a factor when a person is buying a car is obviously unique. People do not routinely pay attention to much of anything automobile CEOs say, unless perhaps they’re tracking auto stocks or are avid readers of MarketWatch.
But Musk is clearly different, and since taking over Twitter he has gone into his own kind of “ludicrous mode.” He’s gutted the staff, made it a platform more accessible for hate speech, told his followers to vote Republican this last Election Day and invoked QAnon as he baselessly implied his former right-hand man is a pedophile — which in turn forced that man to flee his home — and more.
So what’s a liberal Tesla owner to do? Do you get rid of your $100,000 car in protest?
James Murakami of Berkeley has no intention of getting rid of his Tesla. But he is well aware that Musk has become a factor in owning one. “[Musk] wasn’t a savory character before but now he’s even less so,” he said.
These days, Murakami describes how he lives with owning his Tesla as being in a state of “cognitive dissonance.” He loves driving the car, but when Musk attacks Dr. Anthony Fauci and Marjorie Taylor Greene eggs him on, that’s something “you have to compartmentalize.”
“When buying the car, my main question was does it check the boxes. Is it EV? Does it have the range? Does it fit my family? It checked all those boxes.”
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