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One of the striking things I’ve noticed is that Tesla enthusiasts are rarely ‘car guys’. My definition of a car guy is a person who would immediately recognize the random digits 3-5-1 as the cubic displacement of a Ford V-8 engine (or 350 for GM fans). These are people that are ‘into’ cars. They might prefer old or new, Mazda rotaries or Ford muscle, sports or grand tourers, whatever. Interestingly, car people are rarely Tesla enthusiasts, and equally Tesla enthusiasts are rarely car people. 

Why is this? 

The answer is that Tesla enthusiasts are idealising technology as a universal solution to a range of real, physical, problems, particularly in the mobility domain – ask a Tesla enthusiast about self-driving cars (see Rodney Brooks’ discussion about why Elon Musk was wrong about his prediction that Tesla would have one million robo-taxis on the road by 2020). 

Car people see Tesla vehicles as, well, cars. Cars as real, physical objects. Cars with 4 wheels. Cars that don’t fly. Cars that get stuck in traffic jams. Yes, cars with electric drivetrains, but still essentially the same physical machines as every other car on the road. On the other hand, Tesla enthusiasts don’t see a car – they see a vision, an abstract idea, a trip to Mars. They see whatever their mind creates as an abstract technological ideal. 

How does this relate to share value? Car people value TSLA on discounted future cash flows from the sale of actual cars, assuming a given growth in market share and plausible net profit margins. Tesla enthusiasts value TSLA by a utopian vision of technology. What price can you put on utopia?