No Fixed Abode: Three's Up, Bolt's Down

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
no fixed abode three s up bolt s down

The meme is called I Hope Senpai Will Notice Me, and it commonly refers to a situation in which someone hopes desperately to catch the attention (no matter how temporary that attention might be) of a romantic interest and/or social superior.

When it happens in the auto industry, it usually comes in the form of an auto industry alpha male temporarily deigning to notice one of our many beta/omega/is-there-something-worse-than-omega-cause-if-so-that-word-applies automotive journalists.

I inadvertently participated in a “Senpai, Notice Me!” moment of my own when I agreed to face Bob Lutz in the CTS-V Challenge. Robert Farago told me not to attend. He’d correctly diagnosed the event as one in which auto journos would crawl on their hands and knees to lick the spittle dripping from Bob Lutz’s super-alpha chin; in particular, I remember the odd shudder of ecstatic, erotic joy that visibly wiggled through Wes Siler’s body when Bob turned to him and offhandedly said, “Hi, Wes.”

Farago, as always, was right. But I wanted to drive a new track and I didn’t give enough thought to the fact that the whole event basically amounted to one giant kneeling-before-Lutz. The best I can say is that, unlike my colleagues who participated, I didn’t beg to have my photo taken shaking the man’s hand before I went out and put five seconds a lap on him.

Bob Lutz is now my colleague at Road&Track, having retired from the day-to-day grind of the auto biz. That leaves Elon Musk as the undisputed super-alpha of carmaking. Elon Musk. I like that name. Musk, as you may know, is a word for glandular secretions that male deer use to excite the hoes, er, wait, the does. It’s an appropriate name for Tesla’s Maximum Leader. His secretions excite women. They also excite men to the point that they will do anything to engineer their own “Notice me, Senpai!” moments with Elon. I was once told by a real O.G. of the pimp game that when a woman is in love with a man, a kiss with a fist excites her like nothing else. When Elon mentions people, even to disrespect them, it gets them excited.

Does that explain why pre-orders of the model 3 are on track to reach the 400,000 mark?

It’s a tempting theory. Let’s put it into the language of the pickup game. We have prospective electric-car buyers playing the role of the attractive woman. The Nissan Leaf, a thoroughly satisfactory electric vehicle that is already in production, plays the role of the reliable omega male at the woman’s job. He’s always been there, he always will be there. He’s reliable and decent. A well-known property. His price is respectful. He doesn’t demand too much. Naturally, the woman doesn’t even notice his existence.

The Tesla Model 3? That’s the unattainable alpha male. He demands commitment from the woman, in the form of a $1,000 deposit, before he’ll even think about scheduling a date with her. He’s very evasive about when he’ll be available, and for how long. After closing the $1,000 deal, he said he’d be available for dinner and a movie in 2017. But now it’s looking more like 2018. He’s really sorry, but he has things to do, like land spaceships on droneships. Just thinking about how important that is… well, it makes the buyer feel like Lucy Mancini felt about Sonny when she first heard about him.

The conversation going on between Nissan and the buyers right now will be depressingly familiar to anybody who has ever played Duckie to someone else’s Blane:

Buyer: I can’t believe Elon is willing to sell me an affordable electric car in 2018 if I give him a thousand dollars today.

Nissan: I have an affordable electric car right here.

Buyer: But the Model 3 will only cost, like $35,000.

Nissan: The Leaf costs $29,010.

Buyer: All I have to do is to show my devotion, and be patient, and one day I’ll have an electric car.

Nissan: You don’t have to wait. We can do it right now. I’m here for you. I’ve always been here for you. I’ll be waiting in the showroom for you to realize we’re good together.

Buyer: (turns away, looks at a poster of Elon pointing at the moon, sighs)

So where does that leave the Chevy Bolt? I have to admit that I don’t really give a shit one way or the other about electric cars, but from my brief and disinterested reading of the spec sheets I get the impression that the Bolt is going to be able to do everything that the Model 3 is supposed to be able to do, and it’s going to be in production at the end of this year. Pre-production cars have been rolling for ninety days now. There have been a few Bolt pre-orders, but not enough for GM to brag about them.

Obviously, the Bolt is the “beta male” here. He’s interested in the buyer, and the facts are on his side, but you can’t convince the buyer with facts.

Chevy: Why did you unmatch me on Tinder?

Buyer: I’m interested in someone else.

Chevy: Oh, him again.

Buyer: I don’t know how to tell you this, but I placed a deposit with Elon last week.

Chevy: Are you fucking kidding me? After I went through a complete design and engineering process for you?

Buyer: Elon says that he’s going to use my money to engineer the things that the Model 3 needs.

Chevy: So you let this guy put his ACD transaction in your bank because he’s going to get around to engineering the car sometime?

Buyer: I don’t expect you to understand. The Model 3 is special. There’s something about it. I can’t explain. In fact, a couple of my friends placed deposits, too.


Buyer: We all went and did it together. Elon said it would be special. (sighs)

Chevy: I can’t even get you to look at my Website and you went with your friends to place a deposit with Elon? You know he doesn’t care about you. All he cares about is… that rocket.

Buyer: (sighs again, thinking about the rocket) Chevy, stop being creepy. I said I’d call you next week. Or sometime.

Chevy: (hangs up the phone, fires up the XBox)

The natural response to observing scenarios like these, whether we’re in love with our dream girl or trying to figure out why buyers aren’t excited about the Bolt, is to become bitter and dismissive of the person with the options in the scenario. We tell ourselves that women or buyers are stupid. When we do that, however, we are lying to ourselves. Women, and electric-car buyers, have their own internally consistent set of rules that they follow, the same way that men and carmakers do.

Most of the time, anyway.

Women are attracted to “alpha males” because they are trying to get the best biological material possible for their children. Sure, we live in a world now where only migrants and immigrants and the deeply religious have children before their 39th birthday, but that change is too recent to have percolated into human beings engineered by 100,000 years’ worth of evolution.

Similarly, buyers are attracted to the Model 3 because it fulfills the true, actual requirement of electric-car ownership for them in a way that the Leaf or the Bolt does not. So what’s that true, actual requirement? It’s as simple as this: Owning an electric car — the right kind of electric car — confers social standing in certain peer groups.

What determines “rightness”? It’s as simple as this: branding that women can understand. What, did you think that this whole buyers-as-women analogy was accidental? Tesla’s customers for the Model 3 are almost entirely composed of two different types:

* Women; and

* Men who take their ideas, self-worth, and social standing from peer-group relationships with women.

How many good ol’ boys did you see standing in those reservation lines? How many people with “Glock Perfection” T-shirts or “TapOut” apparel? Didja happen to catch any African-American men with brand-new Air Jordans and sleek tracksuits? Why not? Do you think that black men don’t have $1,000 in their pockets? You think the same “bros” who paid ten grand over sticker for Hellcats and twenty grand over for GT350s can’t come up with a spare G for a reservation slot?

Stop kidding yourself. The Tesla Model S might have a lot of appeal to men, because of its reputation as a “ludicrous mode” drag strip weapon, but the Model 3 is Ladies’ Night. Now here’s something that you probably already know: American women, as a rule, aren’t super-sensitive to sub-branding. I’m sure you have heard the old story about how “Legend” used to have greater name recognition in this country than “Acura”. That’s the female buyer talking.

Ask a man what kind of car he has: “I have a 911 Turbo, 996 generation, with X50, 19-inch directional Cup wheels, Sonderwunsch console trim, Bose stereo, PCM-delete center stack.”

Ask a woman: “I have a Toyota.”

The only women who don’t say “I have a Toyota” when you ask them about their car say…

wait for it…

“I have a Prius.” Or did you think that the expansion of the Prius lineup into three cars was random chance? Did you think that GM’s highly-successful-until-it-wasn’t expansion of the “Cutlass” nameplate to cover almost their whole lineup shortly after the 1977 Cutlass Supreme became the best-selling car in America was just random coincidence?

Now, let’s look at what these three brands mean to upscale American women.

Nissan: are you kidding, ugh

Chevrolet: Seriously? Wow, just wow. I can’t even.

Tesla: (sighs, thinks of Elon landing a girthy, titanium-alloy rocket on a very receptive barge)

Nobody wants an electric car. Nobody gives a shit about the day-to-day benefits of an electric car. ‘Cause a) there aren’t any and b) we can’t remember them even if they exist. Your Nissan Leaf buyer is the same kind of guy who buys a Mitsubishi Evolution, except that when their parents divorced the Leaf buyer identified with the dutiful, suffering mom and the Evo buyer identified with the tatted-up, childcare-payment-skipping father. They are otaku. They volunteer for Bernie or delight in editing Zoe Quinn’s entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica. Women aren’t interested in their existence and neither is anybody else.

The problem that Chevrolet faces is that, for most people, a $1,000 reservation on a Model 3 has greater value and worth to them than an actual, functioning electric car in their driveways. Elon knows this. Chevy knows it, although they have to be careful about admitting it to their masters in the Democratic Party. It will ever be thus. It doesn’t matter if Teslas shed control arms or ball joints. It doesn’t matter if Teslas spontaneously catch on fire or feed children to alligators. What matters in 2016, to everybody who matters in 2016, is…


Nothing more than feelings.

Elon brings the feels.

The only way any of this will change is if the Middle East erupts and gasoline goes to ten bucks a gallon faster than the frackers can turn their operations back on. And then, maybe, just maybe, the Bolt will become a roaring success.

Or maybe people will just beg Elon to deliver the Model 3 faster. Please, Elon! Acknowledge my existence! Say my name, even if you can’t remember how to spell it! Notice me, Senpai!

Join the conversation
3 of 143 comments
  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 21, 2016

    The Model 3 is sexy. The Bolt looks like a Honda Fit. The Leaf looks like a Renault Megane that accidentally bit its tongue. The Model 3 is from a sexy company whose image is that of a group of brilliant people revolutionizing an industry to make the would a better place. The Bolt is from a company known for cruddy vehicles driven by your racist uncle---and for killing the electric car. The Leaf is from a company known for third-string cars sold to people with third-string credit ratings. Men and women care about status and are hedonistic. You could have just written that, and left the super-creepy pick-up artist stuff out.

    • JimZ JimZ on Jun 21, 2016

      "The Model 3 is from a sexy company whose image is that of a group of brilliant people revolutionizing an industry to make the would a better place." image and reality are not congruent to each other in this case. But then again, we live in a country where a lot of people truly believe Donald Trump honestly believes any of the words he ejaculates from his mouth.

  • Tnk479 Tnk479 on Jul 05, 2016

    Brilliant writing as always Mr. Baruth. I found myself nodding in agreement from the first sentence to the last.

  • MaintenanceCosts This class of car competes hard with Chargers/Challengers and modded diesel pickups for the douchey-driving crown.
  • 28-Cars-Later Corey - I think I am going to issue a fatwa demanding a cool kids car meetup in July somewhere in the Ohio region.
  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!