At the opening of Tesla's first retail store in London yesterday, noted supervillain and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk fired back at critics like Michael Corleone taking out his enemies one by one at the end of The Godfather. Two big targets: Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson and Volkswagen Group chairman Martin Winterkorn.
First up was Clarkson, whom Musk openly ridiculed when speaking to BBC reporter Gavin Esler. In case you don't remember, Tesla actually sued Top Gear for libel (only to have the case thrown out) after a 2008 episode where the hosts claimed the Tesla Roadster ran out of juice when it really didn't.
In this brief clip, Musk calls out Jezza for what he perceives as a bias against electric cars and American cars, which is why he said the result of that episode was "not surprising."
I'm surprised to learn Top Gear was even on the BBC. I think Clarkson's show is much more about entertainment than it is about truth. I think most people realize that, but not everyone. I have actually enjoyed a lot of his shows. It's not as if I hate Top Gear or anything. He can be very funny and irreverent, but he does have a strong bias against electric cars and in particular he seems to hate Americans.
It's like his two pet peeves are American cars and electric cars, and we're an American electric car, so we're in the worst possible situation for someone like Clarkson. I don't think there will be any converting of Jeremy Clarkson... that seems quite unlikely.
Musk isn't wrong on some of those accounts. While Clarkson is a top-tier auto critic, no one will disagree that Top Gear is mostly for fun and not the word of God when it comes to car reviews. He hasn't really ever shown much love for American cars, either, but his Anti-Americanism (like his anti-everything) is largely part of his humor.
Musk's response? Plenty of Volkswagen cars catch fire every year, so what's the big deal when one — and so far, only one — electric Tesla does the same?
Elon Musk (EM): We have a six millimeter thick armor plate on the bottom of the car and it actually punched through that armor plate into the battery pack and crushed several of the battery cells. It took several minutes, but eventually those cells caught fire. A few of the modules of the battery pack burned, so that’s what happened. But the driver was able to pull to the side of the road, get out and call the fire department, and there were no injuries or anything. Oh and I should point out that he has bought another Model S.
Guy Johnson (GJ): Ok, a committed customer. Martin Winterkorn who knows a bit about making cars being the boss of VW said he was startled, those were the words he used - startled by the fire. Why do you think he was startled?
EM: I don’t know, because VW has thousands of car fires every year.
(GJ): He is investing a lot of money in this technology. He says his is safe. Again I don’t know what the implication of that is.
EM: I mean VW literally has several thousand car fires a year.
(GJ): VW - yeah?
EM: Yeah [laughs], so I’m not sure why he would be startled by one in an electric car.
Fires. They happen. No big deal, right? I didn't think so, and it doesn't seem likely to affect the company in the long run unless it continues to happen.