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Remembering when Tesla Motors was called a Scam

On June 29th 2010, Tesla Motors became the first American automaker to go public since the Ford Motor Company in 1956. It is now a profitable company and a force to reckon with in the automotive industry. But just a few years ago, Tesla was being downplayed by the mainstream media, while bloggers affiliated with the mainstream media viciously attacked it. The gloomy prognostications of some Gawker contributors who were closely following developments related to Tesla Motors make for fun reading in retrospect.

Tesla's upcoming Model X

To start with, why would Tesla Motors be targeted? The answer lies in the fact that American automotive manufacturers quit making cars a long time ago. Now they manufacture merely to troll Japanese manufacturers. And foreign manufacturers cannot drive them out of business completely because of historical, geographic, political and logistical reasons, even if some American manufacturers are forced to recall more cars than they actually sold. Then there are contraptions exclusive to the American demographic, such as this thing, which will continue to be made by American manufacturers.

Over the past several decades, many independent American manufacturers tried to build automobiles in North America, but they never got away with it. Tesla Motors is a glaring exception. But its path remains littered with numerous attempts to kill and scuttle it, including possible attempts at sabotage from within, which Elon Musk tactfully fended off. While “honourable” journalists associated with the mainstream media did their best to downplay Tesla, more malicious attempts originated as acrimonious prognostications produced by Gawker Media. While Gawker Media specializes in several gossip blogs, they are fairly selective about which kind of gossip they peddle. Have they become a clearinghouse for stuff that mainstream media would stay way from for liability reasons?

One particular editor at Gawker, the all-Jewish Ray Wert gained quite a reputation as an early opponent of Tesla Motors. Gawker Media’s feud with Tesla Motors became such a spectacle that some conspiracy theorists attributed it to Gawker’s attempts to drive up their website traffic, which does appear to be their business model. Whether or not things could be more rotten is a matter of opinion. Ray Wert has since then left Gawker. Currently, his marketing company Tiny Toy Car produces social media style marketing for established heavyweights in the automotive industry, such as Mercedes-Benz, American Motors and Ford.

On 13th August 2007, Ray Wert published for the first time, an email sent out to Tesla buyers by its sacked CEO, Martin Eberhard, in which he claimed that Tesla may fail to reach distribution deadlines.

On 14th October 2008, another Gawker contributor came up with the following:

In our inbox, rumor of a staggering blow to one of Silicon Valley’s new growth industries: Tesla Motors, a tipster tells us, is laying off 100 people, about half of its staff. CEO Ze’ev Drori is also leaving, he claims.

This was followed by an update though,

Tesla VP Darryl Siry called Wednesday morning to tell us that the number our tipster supplied is “exaggerated” and that the company is “refocusing” to get through “a tough nine months.”

On 24th October 2008, when Tesla Motors first released a teaser photo of the Model S, Ray Wert reblogged a negative quote he found somewhere else on the web.

Sorry boys, the up-skirt shots of future product like the Tesla Model S only work when you’re actually going to release the future product. Just sayin’.

On 30th October 2008, another Gawker contributor brought out the following exclusive, tagged as “Deathwatch.”

The Valley’s hottest electric-car maker is running on fumes. Tesla Motors, the brightest hope of Silicon Valley’s nascent clean-automotive industry, has only $9 million in the bank, a longtime employee tells us. The company, which recently laid off dozens of employees and announced the closing of its Detroit office, called an all-hands meeting yesterday evening to inform employees of its financial state. What makes the company’s low cash balance especially scary, our tipster says, is that the company has taken “multiple tens of millions” of dollars in deposits from customers — anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000 per vehicle — and has only delivered 50 of them. The obvious conclusion: Having already spent its customers’ deposits, it may run out of money before it delivers the cars they have paid for.

On 20th January 2009, another Gawker contributor claimed

Tesla’s informed customers who’ve placed $50,000 deposits down for their Roadsters, the price of options they ordered has gone up. Now they need to fork over more money or lose a shot at owning one.

In response to this post, one Gawker commenter “graverobber” wrote an entire poem on how Tesla was planning to steal money. It is important to note that commenting at Gawker is heavily moderated. You have to “audition” with a comment deemed favourable by Gawker staff in order to get commenting ability on your Gawker account in the first place (Read:Censorship). I have tried two times (over the span of several years) to get a commenting account but failed. To quote,

Tesla set the price

Said cars were coming soon

Depositors rolled the dice

Because the car made them swoon

50 large they did put down

and all chose their favorite hue

But Tesla has a tainted crown

And said “more money we must accrue”

Now you don’t want to make Ed Begley mad

Even though he is all green

He’s gotten behind this electric car fad

But reneging on the deposit deal makes him mean

He’ll ride his bike up to Silicon Valley

An angry sneer affixed to his face

And lead a violent protest rally

To smash up that Tesla place

The greens will riot as is their habit

When things don’t go their way

They’ll over turn a bio-fuel Rabbit

As vitriol they do spray

Then once again, they will return

To lunch on organic chick peas

To contemplate the thoughts of a fern

And await the next great cause célèbre

Tesla meanwhile will wonder

What went wrong with their grand plan

Find gullible celebs to plunder

Before they jet off to Cannes

It would have worked, if not for ol’ Ed

Tesla only imagined it vaguely

Though some celebs are easily lead

Nobody fucks with the Beagley

On 30th January 2009, another Gawker contributor brought us an exclusive, in which he claimed that Tesla’s Elon Musk was all set to become another Preston Tucker, another American who had ventured into automotive manufacturing, only to be clobbered down by the Powers That Be.

But according to a Tesla tipster, Musk’s decision to raise prices has caused severe damage to the company’s operations. Production ceased while manufacturing waited to hear what options to install. And the company’s salespeople were consumed by the task of calling back customers and asking for more money, rather than pursuing new sales. While cars stopped going out, money stopped going in. He also faces a real risk of customers asking for their deposits back; California’s vehicle code provides strict consumer protections against such fiddling with prices.

On 11th February 2009, another Gawker contributor made the following statement about Tesla’s attempts to secure funding from the Department of Energy. This of course, had to be corrected when Tesla repsonded with a clarification.

What he didn’t say is that their application was approved. He didn’t specifically say how much, if any, money is coming to Tesla. We’ve contacted Tesla for a comment so we’ll know for sure whether this vague statement of some funds going somewhere was merely a rhetorical miscue or an actual attempt to mislead people as to the future financial state of the company.

To quote the same contributor in another article released on the same date,

Here’s Tesla’s catch-22: The government will only loan Tesla money if bureaucrats deem it financially viable. And it will only be financially viable if it gets the loan.

In the mind of an entrepreneur like Musk, this is a mere detail. The money is as good as his, and the only hangup is getting everyone to share his vision.

On 4th March 2009, another Gawker contributor brought us this exclusive, which was about Musk’s concerns of confidential information being leaked to attack blogs like Gawker.

Enraged by leaks at his troubled Silicon Valley electric carmaker, CEO Elon Musk cooked up a sophisticated electronic scheme to catch the blabbers. It backfired hilariously on the brilliant entrepreneur, who’s a bit blabby himself.

To quote Ray Wert on 26th March 2009 at the release of the first official pictures of the Model S,

Other than those details, we guess we’ll just have to wait a few more hours to find out more information — like, for instance, what car platform they’re planning to build it off of. Because here’s the problem. If Tesla claim they’ve built their own chassis, then this car is vaporware. Because in order to get a new chassis on the road, they’ll need much more capital than what they’ve already asked for to do the necessary safety testing and durability testing.

To quote another Gawker contributor on 26th March 2009

For Tesla, any publicity is good publicity. The Model S unveiling is Tesla’s last-ditch hope at a future in the business. Although it does not have financing for the production of the Model S, or even a site for a factory to produce it, Tesla plans to take deposits for the $58,000 vehicle from customers, a move at least one Tesla executive deemed fraudulent, prompting his departure.

On 17th August 2009, Ray Wert commented on a family photo of Tesla Founder Elon Musk,

Tesla’s Elon Musk, pictured with his children for a New Yorker photo shoot in front of a clay model of the not-anywhere-close-to-production Tesla Model S sedan.

Another Gawker contributor had something equally negative to say

Although we initially believed they might be using a Mercedes platform, but we’re now told personally by Tesla’s Elon Musk the platform is their own design and they plan on manufacturing it themselves. Where they’ll come up with the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to accomplish that is anyone’s guess.

To quote Ray Wert on 6th April 2009,

We thought Tesla’s Elon Musk decided to give up anti-Detroit not-so-Big-Three rhetoric, but he’s gone on the attack again against GM’s Chevy Volt and Range-Extended Vehicles. Oh, that rapscallion!

To quote Ray Wert on Elon Musk in an article published by the New York Times on July 24th 2010,

“I don’t believe him,” says Ray Wert, editor in chief of Jalopnik, a blog about the auto industry. “He’s made so many prognostications in the past that just have been so completely wrong. I don’t think he’s lying. I actually believe that he believes what he’s saying. But I just think it’s nowhere near what the reality is. It never has been.”

To quote Ray Wert on 5th June 2011 when Tesla released some new photos of the Model S Alpha,

Tesla Motors has dropped a crop of photos of what it’s calling the Tesla Model S “Alpha,” which appears to be a more production-intent version of the until-now-more-likely-vaporware-than-not electric sedan concept. It also appears to be stolen straight from either the new Jaguar XF or the Kia Optima. I guess if you can’t beat ’em, derive from ’em!

Compared to the first concept, the Model S “Alpha” concept now has a different lower fascia, along with a slightly sleeker and more aggressively angular look. All combined it creates a look that makes our hearts scream “soon-to-be-reality” even though our heads are screaming “never gonna happen.”

And that’s really all we know about it. So, you know, enjoy the vaporware porn.

To further quote Ray Wert on the occassion of Tesla’s video release regarding testing the model S for Winter Driving,

Nah. A little hyperbole never hurt anyone — especially when you get to take a midsize electric sedan sliding on ice. Wheee!!! Cones!!! Yay!!!

With Tesla finally out of the red and in the process of launching a new SUV, Ray Wert brought us a new headline on 9th February 2012

The Tesla Model X Looks Like A Fat Electric DeLorean

The Delorean being another torpedoed attempt at making an innovative car in America. This was followed by:

Yes, the automaker that has still yet to produce a single car that they’ve made on their own (i.e., off a non-Lotus platform) has now revealed their second model off a platform they still haven’t produced a single unit off of. Oh, and the rear doors? They’re “falcon wings” — gullwings that fold up. That helps it look like a friggin’ DeLorean.

So with Tesla no longer having to prove it can make cars, it must now produce a car entirely on its own? Even the big three stopped doing that years ago. It is interesting to note that even American companies in the cross-hairs of The Powers That Be get the same treatment by the mainstream media as Al Qaida, ISIS and the Taliban. In all, this case teaches us to be very skeptical about what mainstream media wants us to believe.

UPDATE: In a recent essay, Miles Mathis raises the possibility that Elon Musk may be an Intelligence creation, inserted into Tesla after a hostile takeover to divert its potential elsewhere. And sadly, we are seeing some of that happening now. For example, Tesla unnecessarily jumped into the “self-driving cars” bandwagon, which is clearly intended to take power away from drivers and tie them and their vehicles to some kind of control grid. The very purpose of the electric car was to empower drivers, not make them dependents on state and corporate infrastructure. It seems the good minds at Tesla have prevailed so far. But for how long?
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