It’s the oldest trick in the book: using a surprise announcement to deflect from a negative, persistent story.
And no-one is more familiar recently with a negative, persistent story than Tesla boss Elon Musk who has had his company’s credibility tested lately, having made very bold claims about Model 3 production models, which so far, it has failed miserably to deliver on.
To repeat a number that so many have jumped on recently: only 260 Model 3s were built in a week, when Musk had claimed 5000 would be built in that timeframe.
So, what do you do when the world, not least the stock market on which your company floats, is seriously questioning your ability to deliver?
You reveal not one, but two hugely impressive vehicles. The Tesla Semi lorry alone is impressive. It might not have the looks of a roadster, but it does reportedly achieve 0-60mph in 5sec. 5sec for a lump of that size is hugely impressive.
But while the Tesla Semi reveal last night had been planned for some time - though also delayed, with Musk stating last month that he was “diverting resources to fix Model 3 bottlenecks” – the unveil of a new Tesla Roadster was a monumental surprise for most of the world. And of course, Musk doesn’t do things by halves. The Roadster will have a 200kWh battery, double that of its current model line-up meaning a range of 620 miles, accelerates from 0-60mph in an astounding 1.9sec and looks stunning.
So did Musk always plan to reveal the Roadster alongside the Semi, or was it the PR coup of the year to detract from everything that’s going wrong at Tesla? For now, we don’t know. It seems odd to lessen the effect of either vehicle by revealing them both at once. It’s true that they are for different buyers, but given the media’s obsession with Tesla, there’s plenty of outlets (such as Autocar) which cover both. All of which means that both the Semi and the Roadster gets slightly less coverage.
Musk doesn’t – and probably shouldn’t - care. The internet is flooded with Tesla this morning and, for now, all anyone can think about is the wow factor of the new Roadster.
But once the dust settles and we all get back to the realities of life, Musk’s shareholders will still be watching for this: that Musk can deliver all the Model 3s he promised. It is this feat which will ensure the company longevity long beyond a pretty sports car.