Friday, September 8, 2023

Would You Buy a Used (or New) Car From This Man?

It turns out, it does matter who you do business with.

I read a recent article online that talked about the bumper sticker that is sold on Amazon (that I featured in my last posting), that says, "I bought this car before we knew Elon was crazy!"  It is an interesting thought, as I noted that Elon Musk's behavior was "erratic" as early as 2018All the signs were there, we just refused to see them.

But that bumper sticker reflects a feeling that a lot of marginalized minorities felt - such as gays and transgender people - that when they bought their Tesla, they were, in part, doing something for the environment and making a (left-wing) political statement.  Maybe politics should be left out of car buying.  At the present time, the delta in car price for an EV keeps me out of the market.  In other markets, such as China, EVs are actually the same price as IC cars - but even then, there are practical reasons (such as range, recharging) which may keep some people from buying.

A reader writes, telling me they are thinking of buying an EV.  A Chevy Bolt can be had for 1/3 the price of the cheapest Tesla, and now that the charging network is open to all types of EVs, it makes more sense for them to buy a non-Tesla EV.   And maybe that is where Tesla is going - they will make more money running the charging stations and licensing the plug technology.  They may become the Standard Oil of electric motoring - and that may be where the real money is.  I doubt any of that was planned, but once again Elon falls into a septic tank and comes out smelling like roses.

Of course, there is precedence for this sort of thing. Packard the car company, went broke.  Packard Electric developed the ubiquitous electrical connectors you see on every car today - which allows components to be quickly connected on the assembly line (as opposed to one wire at a time!) and every car manufacturer adopted the Packard Electric plug - or one like it.  Packard Electric became a division of GM, but of course, has long since been merged, modified, and sold off.

Getting back to topic, many on the Left were appalled to find out that the CEO of Tesla isn't some sandal-wearing patchouli-stink hippie, but a right-wing nutjob who is giving a platform to people who outright advocate that gays and trans people be "lined up against the wall and shot."   And this sort of talk has lead to actual violence against gays - or even little old ladies who have the audacity to hang up a flag.  It isn't funny anymore and it isn't "just politics" when people are getting killed and others are advocating for outright civil war.

The funny thing is, of course, that Elon's new pals hate electric cars - so maybe his new goal is to destroy Tesla the same way he has destroyed Twitter.  Slashing prices might be a good first start.

But do the politics of the company owner matter?  I run into this all the time with Walmart.  The Walton family is fairly conservative, but they do a better job of hiding their opinions on these matters.  They know that politics is bad for business.  So whether they hate their transgender daughter or not, I don't know.  They keep that sort of stuff closer to the vest.

And you can understand why, as the world's largest retailer and largest employer, they might be against unions, worker's rights, and frivolous lawsuits and so on and so forth.  As a former employer, I understand.  One of my employees asked me once whether I supported the idea of enacting a law making it illegal to fire someone for their sexual orientation.  "I am not sure I am for that," I said, which shocked him.  "Why?" he asked.  "Because then you could sue me, claiming I discriminated against you for being straight!"

And he never thought of it that way.  But as an employer, you do.   You see, nice laws with good intentions are swell, but there are always people - and you've met them and I've met them - who look at things like this as a means of scoring a quick settlement with a drive-by lawsuit.

Many on the left hate Walmart irrationally.  "They won't open a store in the inner city or rural West Virginia!  They created a food desert!" the lefties cry.  Walmart then opens a store there and they cry, "Walmart put the local Korean Bodega out of business!  How could they compete with those low prices?"  The shoplifting and vandalism get out of hand, and the lefties cry, "This is social justice!  That man ran out of the store with a 60" television to feed his family!"  So Walmart closes the store, because it is losing money and the same lefties cry, "Walmart has abandoned our neighborhood!  They've created a food desert!"  And the cycle continues.

It is that kind of thinking that got Trump elected in 2016 and it is time it stopped.   Wacky liberalism is almost is bad as wacky conservationism.  The main difference - and it is a deal-breaker - is that wacky liberals don't call for the extermination of entire groups of people, civil war, or insurrection.  Low taxes and less regulation are at least understandable positions.  Saying you want to kill me is another issue entirely.  And the GOP has gone far beyond "dog-whistles" at this point in time.

Getting back to topic (or did we really go far off?), with Walmart, it is kind of hard not to patronize their business.  After all, they are the largest grocer in the world - and the largest purveyor of organic foods.  Kind of hard to bypass Walmart, when at the Deli, you can buy a pint of Lobster Bisque for $2.98 and a bottle of Cava for $4.99.   Lobster dinner with champagne for two - for under $10!  Try getting that deal on Cape Cod!   Like I said, it is kind of hard not to shop there.

Sure, you can shop at Publix, pay twice as much money for food (no, really) and end up lining the pockets of a real right-wing nutjob who openly advocates anti-gay sentiments.  Oh, sure, you can argue that she isn't "in control" of the company, just the major shareholder.  But a dollar spent there puts 10 cents in her pocket, like it or not.

It gets complicated, therefore, to find a wholesome retailer to do business with.  After all, every company has skeletons in their closet.  IBM did business with Hitler - even through the war (collecting back-revenues after the war for the use of their Hollerith machines - even those used to tabulate the number of Jews killed).  But then again, they didn't really advertise this much, even at the time, and their customer base was large corporations, not retail consumers.

Ford has similar links to Nazis and antisemitism in the past. Volkswagen literally was the Nazi car.  The difference is, of course, that these companies have admitted to their shady past and have tried to distance themselves from it.  You don't see the CEO of Ford online re-tweeting right-wing nutjob nonsense.  You don't see the CEO of VW Tweeting "interesting..." in response to a post by an antisemite.  That's bad for business.

The difference between Walmart and Tesla, of course, goes further.  No one needs a Tesla.  Everyone needs to eat - and have clothing and other supplies for daily living.  You can buy a cheaper and better made car than a Tesla from just about anywhere.   And none of the other, cheaper brands, is calling for the elimination of trans people because their daughter went "no contact" with them.

But even assuming Teslas were cheaper than other cars, and people actually had a need for them, does putting politics in your buying decision make any sense?  It is an interesting question.  Many people on the right claim this is "cancel culture" and that refusing to buy a shitty pillow from a former drug addict is violating his Constitutional rights!   The Constitution clearly states you have to buy shit from people, whether you like them or not!  It's in the Bible, too!

But of course, it isn't in either.  And these "cancel culture" mavens are the first to call for a "boycott" of Bud Light when they hired a "trans influencer" to promote the brand.  Quite frankly, I would be ready to boycott any product that hires or otherwise pays an "influencer" as influencers are a cancer on our society - along with the rest of that social media crap.

But it illustrates how the right is not very bright.  Boycotting the pillow guy for trying to take over the country is "cancel culture" but boycotting a beer brand because they hired a spokesperson is justified.  Cognitive dissonance never bothered a Republican, did it?  The ability to keep two contrary ideas in your head at the same time is the definition of the MAGA lifestyle.  Never mind the facts, all that matters is that our team wins!  And while it is nice to be on the winning team, make sure they don't throw you under the team bus on the way out of the stadium.

So no, I don't think it is wrong to not buy an overpriced electric car that is poorly assembled in a factory run by a guy who is promoting on his website, all sorts of odious beliefs - including death threats to various minorities.  There are other options available, and many more coming in the pipeline.  You don't want to be the last guy to buy a Studebaker or a Packard - an orphan car.  You don't want to be the guy swigging Bud Light in the biker bar, either (although if you think about it, a "real man" wouldn't give a shit about what other people think - which would make a good marketing promotion for Budweiser!).

Of course, the difference is, no one at Budweiser wants to kill people or give a platform to those who want to kill people.  I wonder whether there would be an outcry on the right if Bud Light was endorsed by these Neo-Nazis and antisemites?   I don't have to wonder - they'd be chugging Bug Light at every MAGA rally in the country.

You see the difference?  A lot of people claim they don't.  But they are just being trolls.