The toxic fanbase makes any non-Tesla owner feel attacked.
Unless you spend a lot of time on Twitter, your opinion of Tesla is likely different from mine. The company's mission statement is "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy," so you'd think Tesla owners and investors would be happy with the industry-wide push towards electrified vehicles. But Elon Musk's stans (overzealous or obsessive fans) seem to have a new mission lately: attack anyone who talks unfavorably about Tesla (or positively about another automaker).
The Tesla CEO recently used his personal Twitter account with over 74 million followers to attack an AP News writer, calling him a "lobbyist, not a journalist" for his coverage of a Full Self-Driving recall in which vehicles were re-programmed to no longer roll through stop signs. In case you are wondering, passing a stop sign without coming to a complete stop is illegal in all 50 states. This didn't stop the stans from defending Tesla's actions; in fact, they doubled down.
Update: the Twitter account mentioned here is temporarily suspended
Rather than admit it was a bad idea to program cars to break the law, some argued that slowing to two mph was "just as safe" as stopping completely, despite all laws to the contrary. An embedded Twitter exchange above from a fellow journalist encapsulates the general theme of the discourse.
Tesla's dedicated online fanbase is loyal to the point of publicly attacking other automakers and journalists. Want an example of such an interaction? I recently spotted a brand-new 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 charging at a local station and tweeted an image of it with the caption: "First one I've seen out and about. Even in white, it looks amazing. Had to stop to take a picture." Seems pretty harmless, right? Tesla is not even mentioned anywhere in the post. Well, it drew the ire of one user, who responded:
"[The Hyundai Ioniq 5] doesn't look amazing. You're just getting one for a while to write only positive things about. You reporters, journalists these days are scum."
Full disclosure: I do not have an Ioniq 5 booked for review, but another writer from our outlet does.
Wasn't Tesla's mission to accelerate the shift to sustainable energy? Rather than be happy about someone choosing an EV over an ICE vehicle, this account chose violence. In the proceeding exchange, the Tesla stan proceeds to claim automotive journalists are biased against Tesla and being paid by legacy automakers, refers to us a "bunch of woke beta male snowflakes," and repeatedly links to a YouTube video where the host attempts to explain how automakers "bribe" journalists.
The contents of the video are highly inaccurate, so we have not included it in this story. To sum it up, the video claims automotive journalists are biased because legacy automakers send us on extravagant trips and deliver press cars with full gas tanks for review, while Tesla does not engage in such practices.
The host posits that because Tesla rarely hands out press cars to review and doesn't send the media on trips, the company could, at best, receive a neutral review rather than a positive one. It then assumes (incorrectly) that press cars are built to a higher standard than the average car, so any comparison to a Tesla customer car would be unfair. However, we know for a fact that automakers pull press cars off the same assembly line as dealer cars, often taking them away from potential customers.
So, are our criticisms of Tesla's build quality unfair because every press car is built to a higher standard, or is it possible Tesla should build its customer cars with more care? Occam's razor indeed.
It's true that journalists are flown to extravagant locations for seat time in a car, but there is no quid pro quo for writing positive words. We've written our fair share of negative reviews after flying to Napa Valley or handing back the keys to a six-figure vehicle. The scenic locations produce better photography and provide an environment to properly evaluate the car while resulting in coverage, positive or negative.
While we are on the subject of bias, did we mention the user openly admits they are invested in Tesla stock? That means they have a financial incentive to say nice things (or in this case, mean things about other automakers). The mission has shifted from "get more people to drive EVs" to "the whole world is 'out to get' Tesla."
Before we get comments saying how much we hate Tesla, we must emphasize that no company has done more to advance the shift towards electric vehicles. So if that's true, how is the company's online fanbase actually hurting the shift towards electric vehicles? Remember, our argument is against the Tesla zealots, not the company itself. All I did was comment on how nice a Hyundai looks and that was met with disdain; imagine if this interaction happened to a potential buyer asking for new car advice. How is such negativity supposed to help convince buyers to switch to an EV?
Let's go back to our friend from Twitter, who is far from alone in their behavior. This account was created less than one month ago on January 3, 2022, for what seems like the sole purpose of criticizing any negative publicity about Tesla and fighting the so-called "woke mob" and "cancel culture." Bot Sentinel (a machine learning and artificial intelligence software that can analyze social media accounts to determine malice) ranks the account as "Disruptive."
"Accounts that are classified as disruptive often engage in malicious tweet activity. Some disruptive accounts harass other accounts and use offensive language. Disruptive accounts periodically share misinformation and can frequently spam hashtags. Inauthentic accounts and toxic trolls regularly receive a disruptive rating, so we recommend you exhibit caution when interacting with disruptive accounts," the website describes.
If you don't go on Twitter, this behavior may go completely unnoticed but we feel it's important to shine a light on this issue. Remember, Tesla's mission statement is "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy." With automakers like Hyundai now releasing electric alternatives to Tesla vehicles, this should only make fans of sustainable vehicles happy, not angry.
If the Tesla-crazed Twitter mob cared about getting more people into electric cars, they'd respond positively to a new automaker releasing an affordable electric vehicle. Instead, they choose violence - just for saying a competing vehicle looks good in white.
So why do accounts like this exist solely to attack the media and competing automakers? Who created them, and who tells them who to attack? Many of these accounts are automated bots, designed to tweet, retweet, and like posts. Others, like the one we engaged with, have a real person behind them.
This behavior of attacking journalists is getting more common amongst the online Tesla community, and based on the comments from the company's CEO, it's easy to see why. Sowing distrust in the media is "how dictators get started," the late Sen. John McCain said in 2017. McCain made this remark criticizing President Donald Trump's tweet calling the media, "the enemy of the American people." He later emphasized "I'm not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history." Our opinion is the same about Elon Musk.
No company has done more to further the shift to electrification than Tesla; we felt the need to say that a second time. However, Tesla vehicles are not faultless and neither is the company itself. The 2022 Tesla Model Y is a fine vehicle, but its $60,990 starting price (as of this writing) is out of reach for many buyers. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 may have a lower range, but it starts at $43,650 plus a $7,500 federal tax credit. The two cars are electric, but based on price, they are not direct competitors.
CarBuzz has covered Tesla positively and negatively because that's how the news works, not because we have some anti-Tesla agenda. If a Tesla crashes while operating on autopilot, we cover it. If the company scores extremely well on an EV satisfaction survey, we cover that too.
Quite simply, support independent journalism, but maybe take 10 seconds to think about that mean Tweet before you click send. Perhaps we can make the internet a more harmonious place.