It’s not hard to find a negative headline about Tesla. Every week, there’s a news story about the company’s EVs catching fire, Tesla under fire from lawmakers, and critical lashings of new car models. But when you read through these articles, it’s hard to miss some bias in many of them. Some publications, news outlets, and reviewers dislike CEO Elon Musk and have difficulty being objective. It’s unfortunate, given that Tesla is an excellent automaker.
What Tesla gets right (it’s a lot)
Tesla is not only the leading EV manufacturer but also a pioneer in that arena. Sure, it wasn’t the first. But as the Apple iPhone did for the smartphone market, Tesla has set the standard for what EVs should be. Its vehicles have also dominated mainstream discourse in a way that the reliable but staid Nissan Leaf never could.
Tesla’s innovative engineering has resulted in EVs that outperform rivals in range, acceleration, and power. Though charging infrastructure has long been an issue with EVs, Musk’s company has made it easier to own one with a range that tops the segments in which the company competes. Unique models like the Model S Plaid boast 1,020 hp and 0–60-mph acceleration times of under two seconds. And Tesla’s unique interior design features — such as the love-it-or-hate-it steering yoke, enormous touchscreen, and semiautonomous features — make for awe-inspiring vehicles.
Tesla is also known as a great employer among staff, with many employees on Glassdoor praising continual learning opportunities, excellent base pay and benefits, and a fun working environment. Because of the company’s massive financial success, employees with stock options likely also find the overall compensation outstanding. And doubtless, they take quite a bit of pride in manufacturing best-in-class vehicles popular worldwide.
Further, with the gradual but steady shift toward green products, an EV maker like Tesla is well-positioned to navigate future recessions and continue to grow.
Why the most common criticisms about Tesla are misleading
Despite Tesla’s tremendous success, criticism abounds. One common charge lobbed at the automaker involves vehicle safety, specifically the risk of Tesla EVs catching fire while charging. But the truth is these situations are scarce. Tesla’s vehicles are less likely to catch fire than gas-powered vehicles, according to government data sources.
Another line of attack involves accidents involving Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) capability. Now, there is some legitimate criticism to be found here. Tesla and Musk have left the public with the impression that FSD will let you go from point A to point B hands-free. But when you buy the tech and read through it, you’ll understand it (and the competing semiautonomous tech) isn’t that advanced yet. So, drivers who go hands-free bear the brunt of the responsibility for the accidents themselves.
And because Tesla EVs are so popular, any time a reputable automotive publication, such as Consumer Reports, finds fault with a new Tesla model or feature, critics make hay of it. It’s expected that Tesla won’t always get it right and that emerging entrants might outperform the company in one area or another. But when a Tesla EV’s grade drops from an A to an A-, it shouldn’t become national news.
What those criticisms are really about
The raft of criticism of Tesla can largely be attributed to disdain for its CEO. And there’s a lot you could legitimately criticize Musk for. The Hill has covered the many legislative attempts in recent years to tax extreme wealth, of which Musk is at the pinnacle. But even putting aside the expected resentment of the richest man in the world, Musk has been known to engage in feuds with liberal politicians, faced continued regulatory scrutiny from the SEC, and been the subject of a racial discrimination suit from Black Tesla employees. He’s also faced criticism for transphobic, sexist, and entitled comments.
Many critics have accused him of spreading COVID-19 misinformation and routinely questioning accepted science during the pandemic, The Little Facts reports. He also came under fire for not following workplace safety mandates during the pandemic’s onset, resulting in a coronavirus outbreak at a Tesla plant in California. And he’s been accused of manipulating stock and cryptocurrency prices through tweets and violating labor laws by firing workers trying to unionize.
Perhaps the biggest gripe many critics have with Musk is that his enormous wealth not only lets him escape consequences for alleged wrongdoing but also creates an effective narrative that he wasn’t doing anything wrong in the first place. Musk is not without his share of fans.
But love him or hate him, the Tesla head has built one of the most successful automakers. He’ll go down in the history books as, among other things, the driving force behind the company that brought EVs into the mainstream.
Elon Musk’s foibles and failings aside, Tesla is one-of-a-kind.