Recently Elon Musk, in a tweet let it be known that Tesla’s India business is “still working through a lot of challenges with the government”. While he did not appear to directly blame the government, the subtext was clear. The government has been smart and has seen through the self-serving game. As Business Today reports, it will not bow to pressure. But there are a lot of useful innocents and starry-eyed green warriors, not to speak of corrupt media ecosystem looking for anti-Modi sound bites who will use it to bash Modi for “making things difficult for Electric Vehicles (EVs)”. To keep ourselves informed, and not be fooled, let us look at the background of Elon Musk.
First fact that may surprise you is that Musk did not start Tesla. That was done by two other real heroes who were eased out.
Elon Musk has always been living off the fat of the land, milking subsidies. His middle name could easily be “Gimmedollah”. While the woke ecosystem led by the Pelosis are waking up to this reality slowly until Q2 2021 Tesla’s GAAP profits in its entire history were all thanks to regulatory credits! In other words, each of those “profits” would have been losses without Uncle Sam and other Uncles handing out your dollars. Although recently real profits are inching up, taxpayer handouts are still very much part of Musk’s business model. It is little wonder he wants more of that from the Modi government. And special treatment too.
While no one can deny EVs are less polluting, the very act of handing out subsidies to rich buyers of fancy cars that cost $50-150,000 and can very well afford them, has been questioned. To give you some perspective, a new Honda Civic in the USA costs less than $25,000. Even a Prius hybrid is not that much higher. These subsidies are morally troubling, especially considering how far that money can go fighting damage from the smoke of the chulhas, polluted drinking water, kids without schools and other pressing issues in Africa and elsewhere.
Be that as it may, there is NO real need to give anything special to Tesla/Musk that we don’t give to others because their so-called technical lead in EV is a mirage. Let’s dig in.
Take the biggest of them first. Tesla’s so-called autopilot or “full self-driving” is still in beta, five years after Musk said, “3 months maybe, 6 months definitely”. It has been dismissed as outright fraud and lampooned by many experts. One user said he wouldn’t trust the “smart summon” in an empty parking lot! Tesla cars, many of them in auto mode, are ramming into pedestrians, parked trucks and roadside trees etc., killing people. YouTube has many videos of wonky driving and near-death experiences by users of so-called autopilot. US regulators like NTSB and NHTSA are slowly waking up and the media is calling on them to end what LA times called “madness”. Even in this arena, others are miles ahead. Cruise owned by General Motors often dismissed as a dinosaur waiting to go extinct, is running self-driving taxis!
Little do people know that Musk’s cars use batteries made by a China company – CATL who is a market and technology leader. There are others too like LG Chem. In any case, Tesla’s batteries are made and technology owned by Panasonic who have made clear they can supply to other carmakers subject only to capacity constraints.
In the pickup trucks segment (these are Isuzu D-MAX type of vehicles that are practically non-existent in India but constitute a huge and highly profitable segment in the USA), Telsa’s overhyped “cybertruck” has been delayed further to 2023 while Ford is announcing record bookings, doubling of its F-150 truck production, and deliveries start this spring! Rivian and GM Silverado are not too far behind. Musk’s hilarious stunt on “armour glass” window breaking during the demo is the stuff of internet memes now but is an apt metaphor for his overall character.
VW Is actually selling more EVs in Europe than Tesla and soon that will be the reality in the USA and other places too. China has many companies making great-looking EVs and Tesla’s growth there is slowing. Just ask IBM, Compaq and others how their story went on PCs.
So the writing is on the wall. Big auto, far from becoming another Kodak, is very much catching up, even overtaking and will end up eating Musk’s lunch.
As if all that were not enough, Tesla work culture is toxic, sexist (Any wonder left ecosystem loves him?) and Musk goes after anyone including students, whistleblowers and journalists that dare to criticize him and try to destroy their lives and careers. Read about Hothi and Cristina Balan and many others. As WSJ has revealed, Tesla even tried to get their law firm to sack a former SEC employee that was simply doing her job in her former employment! Thankfully unlike left academia and media ecosystem, which will gladly purge anyone on orders from Politburo or Palazzo, the law firm refused to buckle.
China has seen through Tesla gimmicks and its empty IP cupboard and has been squeezing Musks’ vulnerable parts of late. Having achieved its initial objective of using the media hype that follows Musk to push its own carmakers and their EV efforts. Tesla has been forced to open a showroom in Xinjiang and give it much hype. Recalls ordered by China have been much more aggressive too. It has also started making noises about Starlink satellites, yet another of Musk’s much-hyped ventures that make huge losses all directly and indirectly funded by EV hype and taxpayer dollars.
Musk’s biggest and unquestionable success is blowing up Tesla stock into a 21st century Tulip bulb, with a market cap bigger than the next 12 big automakers combined. That is quite an achievement, and a testimony to the gullibility of the average investor regardless of where he lives or his skin colour. But that sort of ticking timebomb is something India can do without. We have enough of that nonsense.
Yes, EVs are good, Yes EVs are the future. But we will get there with, or more likely, without Musk.
But let us not be fooled into parting with hard-earned taxpayer money from millions of hard earning Indians to a white Mehta. It is however sad to see many states even some BJP ruled, bending over backwards to “invite” him to continue with his ways and suck our money.