I know we’ve been shitting upon Tesla’s new yoke-style steering non-wheel a good bit, and I think we’ve all had a pretty good time with that, and now it looks like the yoke has provided us with some more entertaining wackiness to ponder. In this case, TikToker Rico Kimbrough takes us on an excited journey as he picks up his new Tesla Model S, only to end that journey with baffled disappointment when his airbag comes off in his hand. [UPDATE: It’s not his car.]
Kimbrough made over 35 TikToks documenting his eager, excited journey to pick up his Tesla, which he did with his pet birds along to fully appreciate the experience, an experience which rapidly changed from glee to bemused surprise when he discovered this:
Kimbrough’s Tesla is a Model S Long Range that comes in at just under $90,000, and for the airbag module to be just sitting in its socket, unsecured, is indeed, as Kimbrough himself put it, “cheap baloney.”
Of course, Tesla is hardly the only carmaker to experience quality issues, but here’s the thing about Tesla: if you have a car people are so excited about that they post dozens of videos of the process, then when they incidentally document a glaring issue, you have to expect attention for that, too.
I’m saying this because I already know my social media is about to be clogged with quivering Tesla-stans ranting at me about my focus on Tesla’s failings and my cruel, miserable bias against Tesla and sweet, innocent Elon Musk, but the reality is that nothing’s free.
If there’s a car brand with so much popular culture clout and attention and positivity that—as happened to me just today—I get emails pitching stories about how Tesla owners do better on online dating sites, then you’ve got to accept the flip side of that valuable attention-coin, which is that if that brand fucks something up, that gets talked about, too.
Of course, the Children of Elon are already out in force, with many claiming that Kimbrough is lying for some sort of attention or that he doesn’t own the car and is just the car carrier truck driver, or any number of other ridiculous, unproven claims.
Many are also noting that the car is in Transport Mode, as can be seen in big red letters on the dashboard screens. While this is absolutely true, there’s nothing about Transport Mode that has anything to do with the car’s airbag not being properly installed.
You can activate Transport Mode at any time; it’s not some special pre-production thing. Here’s what Tesla’s own documentation says about Transport Mode:
Transport Mode allows the car to be freely rolled without causing damage to the drivetrain. It’s not an indicator that a car is not finished, in this case the car is in that mode because it was just delivered from the truck. It still has the protective wrapping on it, as you can see in the videos, and while removal of that wrap is part of dealer prep, finishing installation of the airbags is not something Tesla stores routinely do. That’s something that should have been done at the factory, and based on how the airbag has nothing to secure it in place, it appears some crucial part is missing.
Other responses have suggested that many cars have easily-removable airbags, which really does not appear to be the case. I can’t think of any modern car with an airbag unit you can pull out with no tools and one hand, and most airbag removal procedures take multiple steps and require actual tools.
What’s especially lousy about Tesla’s persistent battles with quality control, aside from the glaringly obvious safety issues, is that this was a person who was absolutely, genuinely thrilled to be getting his new Tesla.
Watch the many videos he made prior to discovering the flaw; just scroll through these and you’ll see someone excited for an electric car future, casually throwing shade at people still buying combustion-engine cars, so eager to get his new Tesla that he brought his two birds, Romeo and Juliet, along.
I honestly love seeing people excited about their cars, whatever cars they are. It doesn’t matter what kind of cars I’m interested in, what matters is that there are people enjoying their cars for whatever reasons they want. And this guy was, until a (pretty inexcusable for a modern day, $90,000 car) manufacturing defect was discovered.
Later videos show Kimbrough going to the Tesla store to complain about the problem which hopefully will be fixed quickly; it appears that whatever component secures the unit in place was forgotten or left unfastened, so ideally this won’t prove to be a big deal.
But what is a big deal is that this happens still, and that excited fans of the brand have to deal with these issues on expensive cars, and on top of all that, have to endure hardcore Tesloids accusing them of lying or diminishing any problem their holy cars might have.
And, even if, wildly improbably, Kimbrough isn’t really the owner, and he and his birds just staged an absurdly involved hoax to discredit Tesla for clicks or some other incomprehensible reason, and he was just sitting in a car he didn’t own with an airbag that comes off, I don’t see how that’s any better.
And if he actually used the necessary tools and followed the procedure to remove the airbag, then, well, I guess if that can be proven, I’ll issue a formal apology to Tesla. The odds of that seem pretty fucking low, to be honest, especially with all of the other video evidence here. It’d be a lot of weird effort for pretty minimal returns.
I’ll reach out to Tesla for—oh, wait. No, I won’t.
Tesla stans shouldn’t be mad at the owner or the people talking about it on social media; that wrath should be directed back to the company they love so, instead of making excuses. If they really believe in Tesla’s core mission, fans should be pressuring them to get their shit together, and supporting owners who have discovered problems.
Anyway, this still doesn’t sell me on the yoke.