Opinion: I want to drive a Tesla, but I don’t want to be a Tesla driver


James Ward


The time has come to make a move on a new family car, and while our now-sold BMW X3 was a perfect all-rounder, the change in usage requirements over the past couple of years means a slightly smaller vehicle may be a better option for the future.

This, combined with more ‘localised’ use, means an electric car is a very real and appealing option, and to that end, one car that makes a lot of sense is a Tesla Model 3.

They look good, have all the features and space we need, and in rear-drive or long-range spec, fit within the budget. Even the waiting period works for our ideal timing.

So, job done then? Click, click, add-to-cart?

The thing is, even with everything the Tesla does right, there is one thing stopping me from going down this particular, and popular EV road, and it has nothing to do with the car.

It’s the fanbase.

To quote Melbourne’s own indie-rock legends TISM, “as a Mistral employee once told me, you’re only as good as your fans”, and to that end, Tesla fans are the worst.


To be clear, I am only speaking about the very vocal minority here.

There are approximately 26,500 Teslas on Australian roads, with the majority owned, operated and enjoyed by regular and respectful people who are often unaware of the more extreme factions of the brand’s fandom.

If you’ve spent any time reading comments or input from the venomously pro-Tesla community, you’re either with them, or you are wrong. And if you are wrong, you are vilified, bullied and digitally chastised for not being on the team.

Mention build quality issues, and you’re a villain. Suggest an electric vehicle isn’t a perfect solution for every buyer, and you’re an enemy. Challenge the likelihood of the controversial Cybertruck ever hitting a showroom floor, and… look out!

You should see the emails we received after our most recent story explaining that hopeful Australians, who placed a deposit on the titanium triangle, could now claim their money back as the vehicle was no longer listed as being able to order on Tesla’s Australian website.

Both facts, by the way.

Here’s a censored example:

Good to see you are still publishing garbage about Tesla and renewable energy.

Hope you are getting well paid by the fossil fuel companies.

The Cybertruck is not coming because of fossil fuel *** like you in Australia.

Step aside, the future is coming and you will look so stupid in the end.”

Like. Wow. Did you even read the article?

What’s worse is that these are real people, with jobs, families, lives and actual email addresses.

This is brand loyalty taken to uncharted and unhinged levels.

There’s a myopic, blinkered approach to anything even remotely perceived as negative, where no balance nor compromise can be entertained, and that anyone not drinking the Musk-flavoured Kool-Aid must be instantly and incessantly shouted down.

I get that you love your cars. I love my cars too… but you all need to dial it back a notch.


Avoiding automotive brands based on the stigma of their audience isn’t entirely a new thing, although it has never operated at quite this level.

Back in the rectangular days of the ’70s and ’80s, being a ‘bloody Volvo driver’ meant you were cast as slow, dull and boring. It wasn’t until the brand tackled the positioning head-on, by emphasising style, luxury and the technology behind Volvo’s safety reputation that the temperature shifted.

Remember too when virtue signalling had a badge, and that you couldn’t possibly care about the environment without driving a Toyota Prius?

The ground-breaking hybrid became so much a parody of itself that it was lampooned on the animated South Park TV show as the cause of a devastating storm created by the car’s ‘smug’ emissions.

Did the Prius’ pious nature turn people away? Judging by the speed in which the model’s relevance faded to nothing once you could get a regular Toyota with the same hybrid technology, I’m going to say yes.


But where the Volvo example says more about the observer than the driver and the Prius simply became an accessible platform for those who wanted to overtly shout green, there was never the level of cultish animosity that we’re seeing with Tesla.

You’ll no doubt read it in the comments here, that by simply calling out a problem with this behaviour, I/we are spreaders of FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt – and are conspiring with Big Oil to circumvent the transition to electric vehicles and… I’m sorry, what?

And this is the crux of why I will ignore a perfectly good car, that suits my needs, purely so that I am not grouped in with a bunch of nonsensical whackos.

We do it with sports teams. We do it with bands. And now I’m doing it with Tesla.

We avoid the talent based on the fanbase.


There’s nothing wrong with the car, or the technology, and there’s most certainly nothing wrong with wanting to choose an electric vehicle, but whatever mine will be, it won’t wear a Tesla badge. Not right now anyway.

You can be positive about a brand or product you like and support. You can even be evangelical and overtly vocal if you are a true believer, but the second you turn on others who don’t subscribe to your specific position, the moment you abuse someone or suggest they are part of an unfounded conspiracy, you become your brand’s biggest problem.

Tesla has done so much for the progression of electric vehicles in all markets around the world and I would go as far as to say we wouldn’t be so far down the road of change we are now without the pioneering technology of the Model S and broad accessibility of the Model 3.

So stop ruining this for me and everyone else by making being a Tesla owner so undesirable.

I will likely buy an EV for our next family car, and hell, it may even be a Volvo as it has done such a good job at proving that a brand stigma can be turned around, but whether I consider cross-shopping a Tesla at some point remains to be seen.

I’ll leave that with the Tesla fanbase to consider themselves, and share a few more words from TISM to help remind you all we’ve been here before.

“It takes a great person to get an idea

But don’t go public it’ll ruin the plan

Because no matter how intelligent or clever you are

You’re only as good as your fans.”

James Ward

James has been part of the digital publishing landscape in Australia since 2002 and has worked within the automotive industry since 2007. He joined CarAdvice in 2013, left in 2017 to work with BMW and then returned at the end of 2019 to spearhead the content direction of Drive.

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