N.B.: With all of the trouble Tesla Motors is running into now, I thought it germane to publish this article which originally appeared in the December issue of the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter.
I know that the sequel to 1982’s classic film Blade Runner didn’t exactly set the box office on fire. Neither did the original. Blade Runner depicts a world where androids, called replicants, are so advanced they are indistinguishable from humans in every way but one.
Replicants can’t feel empathy. In the original film’s opening sequence Leon, a replicant, shoots the policeman conducting an ‘empathy test’ on him after being asked how he feels about his mother.
The new film takes the ideas from the first and expands on them, deepening both the story and the allegory. It’s great stuff.
Despite its lack of wide appeal, a movie like Blade Runner 2049 is exactly the kind of thing we need in this age where nothing is as it appears.
Control of the narrative is far more important than little things like the truth. In a hyper-politicized world which would make even George Orwell blush, he who controls the narrative controls the capital. And it is this obsession with style over substance, what you can get away with is more important than what value you produce for your fellow man.
The Essence of Service
And this brings me to Elon Musk. Musk is the perfect replicant of a real entrepreneur. The essence of entrepreneurship is to see a need under-served by the current market and provide a product that fills that need.
By doing this the entrepreneur serves the people he sells his products to. His reward is the difference between his costs and the price people pay him.
What need is truly served by Tesla? Without massive subsidies electric car sales drop to zero. They have no real real-world value except for the owners virtue signaling about global warming.
Therefore, Tesla Motors is a pale reflection of a real car company. There’s no innovation in Tesla. It’s simply a good looking, albeit expensive, electric car. Every time I see one I check the front grill closely in the vain hope it’s not a Tesla but a Maserati Quattroporte.
And looks are not the only thing that Tesla shares with its Italian doppleganger. The other is build quality.
Italian cars, especially Maseratis, are mad machines made by mad Italian designers but they’re honest about it and they are marketed to equally mad people. They are luxury items.
Teslas are comparatively simple. Banks and banks of common as dirt Panasonic Li-ion batteries and four electric motors. The Model S makes some sense like a Maserati. But a consumer product like the Model 3 has no real-use case improvement over its gasoline or hybrid counterpart.
The more Tesla attempts to fulfill Musk’s endless hype surrounding himself and his company the more the company fails to produce a product worth owning. The Model 3’s are awful. 90% of the cars fail initial quality testing by Tesla’s own low standards.
The build quality is lower than those Italian nightmares of the 1970’s Clarkson, May and Hammond used to wax poetically about on Top Gear.
And every time there is a negative headline surrounding Tesla, Musk is out there in the media doing some shuck and jive to remind us of how brilliant he is.
The latest [remember: written in late November 2017] is an obvious PR stunt where some Musk-toady asked him on Twitter if he was really Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. Because, you know, he’s so smart and a polymath. The idea that Musk could be that 1) visionary and 2) an expert at cryptography in his spare time is laughable.
Musk feigned humility and the whole thing made headlines to offset the fact that Tesla was laying off more people, the cars suck and the stock was wobbling.
Companies are reflections of their leadership. And Tesla’s inability to build the most basic of assembly lines to put together a car that should be easier to build than any gasoline-powered car tells you this was always a disaster-in-waiting.
I bet you Musk could farm out the pre-sold Model 3 production to Ford for the final assembly and they would get built better, faster and cheaper.
Because, for all of its faults, Ford knows how to build cheap cars.
All You Need is Love
Electric cars only make economic sense with massive wealth transfer payments from government. Free money doesn’t invoke discipline, in creates sloth. Building a company that way isn’t entrepreneurship, it’s rent-seeking.
Teslas are replicant cars created by replicants for people believing fake stories about the end of the world spending fake money living unsustainable lives.
And Elon Musk is their Niander Wallace. The false god who builds unreliable facsimiles of objects that promote human freedom but create debt slavery.
The difference between the Model S and the Quattroporte is love.
Italians love making cars. Every once in a while, they make a good one. Does anyone really believe Elon Musk loves building cars? Maserati’s designers are driven to make beautiful things you want to fall in love with.
There is nothing to love about the Tesla.
What Elon Musk loves is telling stories that revolve around himself., thus any venture that allows him to do that (e.g. Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity) have his rapt attention, but not his focus which is always on the mirror.
And that’s the opposite of the entrepreneurial drive to build something someone else will love. Because if the entrepreneur doesn’t love his product, how will his customers?
Elon Musk, replicant that he is, sees this love but doesn’t understand it anymore than the replicants in Blade Runner knew how to empathize with other people. It’s why Leon couldn’t answer the question about his mother. He didn’t have one.
They aped empathy but didn’t feel it.
And Musk will end up alongside every other fake innovator, a case study for biographers asking why it all went so wrong.
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