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How Did Tesla Create Its Borderline Religious Cult?

There are fanatics in all fields of activity, from sports, to science, to literature - any field is bound to have some sort of fan base, some bordering on the extreme.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that some automakers have amassed huge followers over the years, thousands upon thousands of people who not only relate to a certain brand, but swear by it and would defend it to the death.

Cars are complicated products that not only pack lots of technology and clever engineering solutions, but the very best ones also retain a piece of their creators’ souls. I can understand why Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Nissan and other established automakers have lots of fans who would not buy a car from a different brand, but there’s something fishy about Tesla fans.

Have you ever seen an official Tesla event with Elon Musk on stage? The crowds completely lose their marbles - you hear screaming, fanatical encouragement, and frantic clapping even though what’s being shown on stage often doesn’t justify it (at least in my book).

Sure, Tesla has shown a lot of cool stuff and it has rightfully established itself as the maker of the world’s longest range and fastest electric vehicles, yet fans of the brand act as if the company has found a cure for cancer and brought prosperity to the continent of Africa on top of making cars.

It’s all a bit mad, if you ask me. And don’t get me wrong, I too am excited and looking forward to see what Musk and his gang of rebel designers and engineers have in store for the future. I also appreciate that Tesla has become a really big thorn in the side of the establishment, so much so that the biggest names in the business have now launched models to try to compete with Tesla.

This shows the California-based automaker is clearly doing something right and helping the industry progress (in ways government-imposed rules, regulations and guides to cut down on emissions just can’t and haven’t). So I definitely get why people are so excited about all things Tesla and why they have ended up essentially worshiping this brand.

One key point I must make, though, is that Tesla fans are more often than not actually not car people, in the traditional sense. Based on what I’ve observed, these people are really more into tech generally speaking than they are into cars - the sight and sound of a classic Ferrari Testarossa roaring down a canyon road wouldn’t instantly make them want to experience it themselves.

And I’m sure you’ve been reading about how much fewer millennials are into cars than their baby boomers equivalent. Tech was not as mainstream and prevalent back when babies were booming as it is today, which is why I think it has cannibalized some of the people who would have otherwise been interested in cars.

That being said, and returning to the image of Elon Musk on stage announcing some model or another, it really feels much more like when Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, announces a new product. The news is met with cheering and whistling from people in the crowd, in a way you just don’t really hear at established automakers’ car reveals - or you do, but it’s just a bit more restrained.

What I’m essentially getting at is that Tesla fanatics are different compared to people who are fanatical about other car brands. I’m not saying they’re any more or less fanatical, just that it’s a different kind of obsession, one that I think is also rooted in self-righteousness.

In other words, you’re not only rooting for a carmaker that churns out cool models that are desirable to you, ones that instantly make you want to buy them, but you are also led to believe you’re a) saving the planet in the process and b) better than the people who don’t do the same as you.

Tesla has I think mixed three types of people into a single category of fan: the person who kind of likes cars, the person who kind of likes tech and the person who feels like he or she needs a means to show their moral superiority over others.

Now I’m obviously not saying that all people who buy Teslas do so in order to point a finger at those still running internal combustion-engined cars, or that it’s bad to like Tesla or own an electric vehicle.

As you probably know, building cars (whether electric or otherwise) creates pollution, and making the electricity needed to charge them adds to that pollution, and in the near future we’ll have to start finding good ways of disposing of or re-using depleted EV battery packs (otherwise this will become a huge problem).

The fact that Tesla exists and is run by Elon Musk is great - this company’s mere existence has forced other automakers to take note and adapt.

Really, the automotive scene would have been a more barren place without Tesla, but don’t feel superior if you drive one and don’t act like people who don’t are lesser people - everybody is entitled to an opinion, even if in your view it is the wrong one.


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