Critiquing Tesla doesn't mean you hate Tesla or all EVs | Opinion

·6-min read

The Mustang Mach-E seats are too flat and a bit pinchy in the back. The Mercedes-AMG EQS fake powertrain noises are distractingly loud SciFi tones that do nothing but irritate. The Volkswagen ID.4 infotainment system and interior controls make me want to smack the dash with a hammer. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 looks like it came out of "Back to the Future Part II."

These are all nits I have to pick with various electric vehicles. One can note, however, that absolutely none of it had to do with their electric powertrains or the overall push to electrify the nation's passenger vehicle fleet. Being critical of a car does not mean you hate that car. Or all cars. I mean, duh.

And yet, if one says anything critical of a Tesla, oh boy, brace for impact. And cue the Eminem.

A while ago while walking the dogs, I heard this unusual, faint music coming toward me. It was a Tesla Model Y. The windows were rolled up, the music was definitely quieter and different than it would be if it was just blaring inside the car, and it sure seemed like it was coming out of the front of the car. Having seen the headlines related to NHTSA nixing Tesla's Boom Box (but not yet getting a chance to read further), I wondered if this Tesla was in fact using the feature. It almost certainly was.

I was not impressed. Driving around with your windows down and blasting your music for all to hear is obnoxious enough, but at least you're theoretically just trying to share your music-enjoying experience with the world? But playing it outside the car with the windows up? That's just lame and weird and somehow more inconsiderate. It's hard to articulate why, but it is. Well, unless you're actually doing it to warn pedestrians of your otherwise silent car's presence, in which case, ah, good for you?

Any way, I voiced this opinion on Twitter. There were no hashtags and Autoblog did not retweet it. In other words, I made no attempt to promote this opinion beyond my modest number of followers.

Someone picked it up, though, and opened the Tesla floodgates. Really glad I've never had Twitter notifications turned on. Here is a sampling of responses with some cathartic commentary from myself in italics cause I would never actually respond to anything on Twitter itself.

"Better loud music out the front than toxic gas out the back. You've chosen unwisely."

(What have I chosen? Where did I say anything about what I drive? Also, both inconsiderate music and toxic gas are bad things. You don't have to choose either. Hundreds of thousands of Teslas are driving around without crap tunes piddling out the front.)

"And what do you drive? Does it make noise and spew fumes out of the exhaust? That not only annoys, it kills."

(At least this person thought to ask.)

"You must also hate the slingshot then right? I don't think I've ever seen one of those without garbage music blaring from it."

(Who said I hate the entire car?!? But yeah, blaring music from a Polaris Slingshot three-wheeler would be inconsiderate as well. And I can't say I'm a fan of it in general, either.)

"Pretty much how I feel about engine noise now."

(Good to know. Again, assuming I'm anti-EV because this a particular feature is silly.)

"Can we also recall Harleys and prohibit riders from revving their annoying gas engines repeatedly at all stops?"


"Follow the money - dude has a vested interest in FUD against Tesla."

(This was directly replied to me. Am I the person who should follow the money? What money? Am I the dude? What's FUD? Googles: fear, uncertainty and doubt, usually evoked intentionally in order to put a competitor at a disadvantage. So I have a vested interest in, ah, Tesla failing? I do? And I could actually accomplish that with 1,400 Twitter followers? Holy cow! I have great power! This is fantastic!)

"Just had an ice cream truck drive by playing music out the front while polluting air with its diesel engine. So lame. So inconsiderate. Not amusing. Just, no. Good riddance."

(So I'm pro-ice-cream-truck, now? Honestly, I've not thought about my position on them. Will ponder, get back to you next week.)

"It may have been boom box, you're probably right. You feel like it's lame. It wasn't funny to you. You felt the driver was inconsiderate. It's definitely something that you don't like. You said good riddance, because you'd glad that that feature will be removed soon."

(I have no damned clue what this is about.)

"His profile says everything you need to know… "Senior Editor at Auto bkah blah. He's just pissed his OEM friends may go bankrupt and not give him a free car to test for a year at a time!"

(Finally! Someone actually took the time to see who posted the original tweet. But good grief, you think I test each car for a whole year?!?)

In the end, let me just say this: I do have issues with Tesla that extend beyond an exterior speaker playing music or farts. I dislike the functionality of stuffing all instruments and interior controls into a single touchscreen. The build quality has been suspect from the very beginning (I witnessed first-hand in the Edmunds long-term Tesla Model S, which was easily the most unreliable car to pass through the long-term program during my decade there). I dislike the overt focus on 0-60 times as the only determining factor of their supposed performance advantage — it provides an incomplete picture that actually short-changes the car itself. I definitely dislike the unnecessarily adversarial tone adopted by the company CEO and its adoring online disciples. And, most of all, I find Tesla's Autopilot and Full-Self Driving features to dangerously overpromise and have issues with the company using its customers as beta-testing guinea pigs.

None of that means I hate electric cars. On the contrary. The best and most interesting cars I drove last year were electric, including the Mercedes EQS, Mach-E GT, Kia EV6, Porsche Taycan and Volkswagen ID.4, infuriating interior aside. They are the future and I look forward to testing more of them, inevitable warts and all.

It also doesn't mean I hate Tesla. Or want the company to fail. Or that I'm shorting company stock. It means I have concerns and reasons to not recommend them for the same sorts of reasons I would for other brands. However, while pointing out those and other foibles, I would also point out the overwhelming advantages associated with the Tesla Supercharger network. With Tesla's superior efficiency and battery performance. With the "holy cow" acceleration. With the online purchasing experience. With how that Edmunds Tesla Model S was easily one of my favorite long-termers out of way too many to remember or count. With the fact that car had a rear-facing third-row seat, 'cause why the hell not? With the "let's put gullwing doors on this and to hell with the beancounters!" attitude. With the fact that a whole lot of people sure seem to love the things so much. OK, sometimes too much.

And now if you excuse me, I have to tell our social media manager to absolutely, under no circumstance, @ me when promoting this article.

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