Does Elon Musk Think We're All Complete Fools?

TheStreet.com

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Maybe Jim Cramer is right and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings isn't that bad after all.

Long considered the master of smoke and mirrors by NFLX bears, Hastings has fantastic competition as Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk appears to have entered the dog and pony show.

I'll stop just short of calling Tesla's new the best of the both worlds' lease/finance option for its Model S a scam. It's not. Upside exists. For instance, you have greater flexibility at the end of your term. In this regard, Tesla's program does blend the best aspects of leasing and buying a vehicle.

This is marketing, and bad marketing at that. Musk should give less undivided attention to his own thoughts. They're running away with themselves.

I'm not even anti-EV. Or anti-Tesla. In fact, the Model S is a thing of beauty. I have written quite a few bullish articles on Tesla the company and TSLA the stock. It's a premium brand that targets high-end affluent markets.

In fact, since I wrote this bull case for TSLA last May, the stock is up 25% -- and that takes into account today's 7% haircut!



Anyway, Tesla doesn't need to provide an affordable, mass appeal product. In fact, it's probably better off doing just the opposite. Musk's ploy here puzzles me.

Unless Model S sales are slumping -- and I don't think they are -- why bother with this? Does the billionaire Musk simply want to portray a kinder, gentler self and an egalitarian Tesla? Is he merely teeing up a more modest image ahead of plans to enter a broader market against Nissan's Leaf, General Motor's Chevy Volt, other lower-priced EVs and other cars marketed, at least in part, on the basis of superior fuel economy?

If he is, he's (A) being disingenuous and (B) addressing a problem that doesn't exist.

Play around with Tesla's True Cost of Ownership calculator. You need to be typecast worse than Jennifer Aniston to play the role of a person who would benefit much, if at all, financially by bleasing a Model S.

Tesla's assumptions are unrealistic for most of the population. Ultimately, they only matter to its core pool of prospective buyers who don't have to ask what the car costs and likely have already reserved or are driving one. It's not that these cats don't like saving a few bucks (that's often why somebody is relatively well-off in the first place), but, if you're Musk, why ask? What's the point? There's got to be an ulterior motive.

First, for this thing to work as well as Tesla claims it does from a fuel economy standpoint, you have to drive an absolute gas guzzler by today's emerging standards.

$5.00 a gallon for premium fuel. 19 MPG on your current car? WTF? Are they serious?

The Model S continues to pop up all over the streets of Southern California. Toyota's Prius happens to be one of the top selling cars in the state. The Prius accounts for one in five cars sold in California. Tons of different people buy them. Rich. Upper middle class. Middle class. Me. I just bought one a couple months back.

I'm averaging somewhere between 40 and 45 miles per gallon. For the record, I think Jennifer Aniston drives a Prius.

I did the math. I need to ask for a raise. Thanks, in part, to how much I work my time isn't "worth" anywhere near $100 an hour. Opportunity cost sounds great as a marketing hook, but, practically speaking, for most people, it's shallow rhetoric.

And, by the way, Elon ... See how much time you save in the standard California carpool lane, particularly in Los Angeles County. Not much. And does it really take you 15 minutes to drive to a gas station and fill up? I can do it in less than 10 without breaking a sweat.



Like I said, play with the numbers. Musk insulted our intelligence hyping the snot out of this big announcement. I am sure the scribes who stayed at work late last night aren't happy. Think about all of the other things they could have been doing with their time!

But, more than that, you have a premium product. Rich people in places such as Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are buying it. There's no need to sell them a bill of goods. And, even worse, upon further inspection, the bill of goods will do very little to motivate the rest of us to get into a Model S, even if we are willing and able.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

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