One of the greatest challenges I have on this blog is that I’ve largely lost interest in writing about the things that tout le monde is yammering about — the front-page stuff, which I usually find unbelievably repetitive and boring. But the world is still full of interesting things, things I’d like to discuss.
Unfortunately, the interesting ideas are usually here or there and coming from a single source. Which would have been fine back before newspapers figured out that their business was now online and that had to put up paywalls. (When I started blogging 18 years ago, that was not the case, except maybe for The Wall Street Journal.)
So when I see something I want to talk about, it tends to be in something I subscribe to, and others don’t.
That’s true of today’s topic, but I think I can summarize it easily enough to give everybody the idea. And I’ll try to quote from it within the vague Fair Use standard.
It was a “guest essay” in the Opinion section of The New York Times over the weekend, and it was headlined, “A 120-Year-Old Company Is Leaving Tesla in the Dust.” It’s written by Ezra Dyer, a columnist for Car and Driver magazine.
His point is that while everyone remains dazzled by Tesla, and while Elon Musk is making a spectacle of himself with his efforts to destroy Twitter, Ford has quietly sped past Tesla by such critical measurements as driverless and electric vehicles.
He starts off admitting that he once thought Tesla was the cool company, not only because it sold the only EVs you could drive for a reasonable distance without recharging, but also apparently because of the razzle-dazzle:
It made cars that performed animatronic holiday shows using their lights and power-operated doors. It came up with dog mode (a climate control system that stays running for dogs in a parked car), a GPS-linked air suspension that remembers where the speed bumps are and raises the car automatically, and “fart mode” (where the car makes fart sounds)….
But then, as a journalist covering the company, he started noticing that the people who worked there, his sources, were terrified to talk to him, being as evasive as spokesmen for a totalitarian government.
If you want to work for a flexible, modern company, you don’t apply to Tesla. You apply to 120-year-old Ford.
Tesla’s veneer of irreverence conceals an inflexible core, an old-fashioned corporate autocracy. Consider Tesla’s remote work policy, or lack thereof. Last year, Mr. Musk issued a decree that Tesla employees log 40 hours per week in an office — and not a home office — if they expected to keep their jobs. On Indeed.com, the question, “Can you work remotely at Tesla?” includes answers like, “No,” and “Absolutely not, they won’t let it happen under any circumstances,” and “No, Tesla will work you until you lose everything.”
But on the other hand, the cars make fart noises. What a zany and carefree company!…
More substantially, he noticed how Tesla lagged on the actual product front. He says Ford’s self-driving equipment is actually farther along than Tesla’s — and Tesla charges $15,000 for its feature that doesn’t fully work (he says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has referred to it with the charming words, “Full Self-Driving Software May Cause Crash“), on the premise that it may work sometime in the future. As for EVs:
Tesla’s long-promised new vehicles, like the Cybertruck and a new version of its Roadster, also keep getting delayed. The Cybertruck was unveiled in 2019, and on Tesla’s most recent earnings call Mr. Musk admitted that it won’t be in production this year, which is becoming an annual refrain. Sure, Ford sold only 15,617 electric F-150 Lightning pickups in 2022, but that beats the Cybertruck’s sales by, let’s see, 15,617…
Anyway, I thought all that was interesting. I don’t know that Tesla is slipping, but I’m impressed at what I read about boring ol’ Ford. I guess it helps not to have a, shall we say, problematic eccentric in charge. Although, of course, Ford once had that problem, too.
Personally, I drive neither a Tesla nor an F-150. But by way of full disclosure, I do drive a 2000 Ranger. It doesn’t do anything fancy. It’s a four-cylinder straight shift, and it doesn’t even have power windows. But it keeps running, and I hope it does so for years to come…