Despite what my recent colonic lab results suggest, I’m human. And, as a human, I make mistakes. Statistically, I suspect I make many more mistakes than an average human. One of these mistakes was taking a TikToker at their word regarding a Tesla they claimed to own. The TikToker in question is the one we wrote about last week, who claimed to be taking delivery of his new Tesla when the airbag came off in his hand. According to another video, it appears he did not own the car he sat in, and the cops told him to stay clear of the Tesla Store.
Here’s the video where the TikToker, bird owner, and hopeful Tesla owner, Rico Kimbrough, comes clean regarding ownership of the car:
And, for reference, here was the TikTok that started all of this mess in the first place:
Somehow, I suspect Elon will be able to weather the financial fallout of this okay, despite Kimbrough’s concern. And, yes, to the Children of Elon—that angelic, pious group of noble humans who, for various curious reasons, have tied their personal identities to a for-profit company, I humbly and sincerely apologize for taking the word of a man who claimed to have just bought a new Tesla via a series of videos.
I did reach out to Kimbrough, and have continued to, so far to no avail. The original story was as much about the sensation the video caused as the event depicted, because, as we all know, Tesla is an automaker that commands an awful lot of public attention, as the original TikTok video going viral demonstrates.
In fact, I sort of addressed all of this in the original article:
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.
I also did hedge regarding the possibility that Kimbrough might not be telling the truth in that earlier article:
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.
Clearly, I was very wrong about the “wildly” and “improbably” part, suggesting I’m quite naive about the motives and ethics of TikTokers.
Now, the real issue is none of this changes that the airbag came off in our less-than-forthright friend’s hand.
Of course, his admission that the car wasn’t his could mean there’s a whole greater level of nefarious activities going on here, activities that would require a lot more than getting in a car and shooting some videos.
I suppose it’s possible Kimbrough’s intent from the start was to specifically remove the airbag unit, an act that requires tools and at least a bit of research, all in an effort to cause Tesla to look bad.
I’m skeptical this was the goal, as all of Kimbrough’s videos prior to the airbag falling out were wildly pro-Tesla. The man certainly presents himself as a fan in a convincing manner, though he did also present himself as a new owner with some conviction as well.
So, yes, that’s possible. It’s also possible that this is a manufacturing defect, from a company with a rich, lavish history of defects, and even if the car was in Transport Mode (see previous article about why that should not affect whether or not an airbag was properly installed) a car making it to the lot with an improperly installed airbag is not great, no matter who owns the car or who’s lying about owning the car.
I’m positive no matter what, that airbag would have been sorted very early within the ownership of the car—likely before it left the lot—but there’s no reason not to call out such issues, especially when they generate as much attention as this one did, long before any of the many media outlets that covered it wrote about it.
So, to all of you Tesla-stans out there who remain very, very engaged with any and all interactions that involve Teslas, again, my apologies. I’m sorry. The TikToker did not own that car, and I dearly hope that his claims of ownership — and my amplification of those claims — did not cause you any harm, somehow.
But maybe still make sure your new Teslas have their airbags properly installed, and, yes, I still think that yoke sucks.
If I can get through to Kimbrough directly, I will update accordingly. He does seem to be a genuine Elon/Tesla fan, though, so I maybe shouldn’t get my hopes up that he’ll want to talk to me.