Pricey automobiles and their owners have long been targets of opportunity for urban guerrillas and, to put it kindly, crazies of all kinds.
The three-pointed star hood ornament has been snapped off countless Mercedes-Benz models and BMWs have been burned on the streets of Berlin, while Cadillacs and Porches have been defaced with keys and broken headlights all over the world. Tesla’s Model S, meanwhile, has been a target of anxious and angry rants, especially from those who felt it didn’t deserve to be propped up, in its early years, with the help of a federal loan.
But the pamphlets being tucked under the windshield wipers of Tesla battery-cars around the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area underscores the struggle underway between the high-tech haves and have-nots – many of the latter resisting being forced out of their once-affordable neighborhoods by a wave of well-to-do tech employees. The Model S, which can cost up to $110,000, has become a favorite of the San Francisco area’s technological and financial elite.
Exactly what is motivating the anonymous pamphleteer is unclear, but Model S owners are getting a “Consumer Alert” of sort, warning owners them, among other things, their cars are fire prone because they are equipped with lithium-ion batteries.
In a Twitter post, former Engadget editor Ryan Block shared the pamphlet which also claims to cite demographic data obtained from various court filings and lawsuits to suggest that Tesla owners are prone to drunk driving, drug use and “strange sexual behavior,” which is left undefined. There is also, a warning, noted by website Autoblog, of potential “anal itching.”
If that’s not enough, the flier also accuses Tesla of being complicit in instigating the war in Afghanistan, which actually began two years before Tesla was founded and arguably dates all the way back to about 1979 when Tesla founder Elon Musk was still in grammar school.
What’s behind the pamphlet? The anonymous author – or authors – goes on to accuse Tesla founder of using lobbyists and political influence to obtain loans from the Department of Energy and to gain control of an old GM plant in Fremont, Calif. Perhaps with the exception of the itching, none of the charges are particularly new and they have been hashed out in press over the past few years.
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Tesla has become a lightning rod for debate for a number of reasons, but much of it is political. There are those who think its battery-based automotive technology is the way of the environmentally conscious future – but foes think battery cars are scams or do little to really improve the environment. Meanwhile, the federal loan program that helped Tesla get started has also engendered wide debate. Tesla, incidentally, paid back that money in full after its successful IPO.
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The automaker, both on its web site and blog, has remained silent in the face of the pamphleteer’s campaign, something local media are describing as “outlandish.” And so far, no one has anyone stepped forward to claim authorship of the “Consumer Alert.”
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Tesla might have other things to worry about. Industry analysts estimate that Tesla’s sales declined by 1.1% in April. But total sales still topped 1,400 cars and Musk himself delivered the first eight Tesla Model S sedans in Beijing late last month. It expects the Chinese market to be a critical part of its growth strategy going forward.
Tesla will present its first quarter financial report next week.