By on March 8, 2017

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Perhaps you’ve noticed, by its absence, that there isn’t any advertising for Tesla products. Elon Musk is pretty good at generating buzz without having to pay for it. For example, a number of media organizations recently ran the news that Musk took the advice given to him by a fifth-grade girl — via her dad’s Twitter account — on how to publicize his electric cars.

Bria Loveday had a school assignment involving writing and mailing a letter to a noted person and, the way the story goes, she chose Musk. In her letter she noted that while Tesla doesn’t advertise, a number of Tesla enthusiasts have produced their own entertaining commercials for the EV maker, and Bria suggested that Tesla hold a contest for the best one. The winner would get his or her ad aired and then receive some kind of prize like a free year’s worth of supercharging at a Tesla station.

In her letter, by way of explaining her interest in electric cars, she just happened to mention that her father is an automotive writer for and U.S. News and World Report. Her father, Steven Loveday, also contributes to, and his day job is teaching art at the Art Institute of Michigan.

It’s a well-written letter, but how much attention is paid to paper mail these days is open to question. In the mailed letter, she informed Musk that her dad would also send him a copy via Twitter, “to make it easier to respond.” Her dad subsequently tweeted an image of the letter to Musk.

Bria letter to elon musk dads tweet

It worked, and Musk actually responded positively, tweeting back, “Thank you for the lovely letter. That sounds like a great idea. We’ll do it!”

Now, it isn’t clear if, “We’ll do it!” refers to the user-generated advertising contest idea or Bria’s postscript asking for a Tesla t-shirt, but Bria nonetheless did an outstanding job in her class assignment and I, for one, think she deserves an A (even if I’m 100 percent sure her dad helped at least a little bit on this school project).

Don’t get me wrong, I may be a cynic and a skeptic, but I’m also a father and I don’t think Steven Loveday did anything wrong. My dad helped me build science fair projects that I designed. Loveday taught his daughter how to get things done. If I was in Steven’s position, I would have done the same. Actually, as matter of fact, I’ve done pretty much the same thing that Mr. Loveday did, though I didn’t have an automotive writing career to promote at the time.*

It was more than 20 years ago. At the time, my son — my only son — Moshe, whom I love, was about the same age as Bria is now. I bought a scale model kit for a Dodge Viper to build with him. Mo loved building stuff out of Legos, but he had a tendency to rush into things and I wanted to teach him a little patience. With a plastic model kit you have to wait for glue to dry before proceeding with the next step.

We were putting together the suspension, I believe, when Mo asked me, “Abba, is this the way real Vipers go together?”

I replied, “Well, it’s a detailed model, but no, they don’t go together exactly this way but the factory where they build them is in Detroit. The president of Chrysler is a man named Robert Lutz. His office is in Highland Park. I’ll get you the address and you can write him a letter asking if your class can take a field trip to see them build Vipers.”

Moshe wrote the letter and even addressed the envelope. I might have made a few suggestions about what to say but Mo used his own words. Three weeks later I got a phone call at work from someone who identified himself as the general manager of manufacturing for Chrysler. I’ve lived around Detroit my entire life and that’s pretty high up in the food chain, so I figured it didn’t have anything to do with the repeated transmission problems on our ’91 minivan. He told me that Mo’s letter “got more attention than something from President Clinton,” and that it was a good thing my son had addressed the envelope with his child’s scrawl because the same letter from an adult would have “gone in the circular file.”

The upshot was 50 fifth graders, with no shortage of parents volunteering to chaperone, got a VIP tour of the Viper factory.

I hope Bria gets her t-shirt. Mo and I still have ours, adorned the Viper logo.

*There’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion. Mr. Loveday’s paychecks feed little Bria.

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14 Comments on “Fifth Grader Gives Elon Musk Advice, Promotes Dad’s Autojourno Career...”

  • avatar

    Interesting, a similar, though far less significant, thing just happened with my 5 year old son and Mercedes. He handmade his own replica of their VR swag. I posted the two to Twitter. Mercedes PR reached out and send him a rather expensive SL-Class model and birthday card. Kid was over the moon. Dad was a little jealous.

  • avatar

    Refreshing story. Thanks. A wonderful break from yet more Hellcat or Mustang drivel.

  • avatar

    For the love of God, kid(‘s dad), Tesla wasn’t Musk’s idea! Musk bought his way into the company, fired the CEO, and took over his job, which is generally the purview of jerks, not innovators. But hey, details, right?

    • 0 avatar

      Someone also isn’t very clear on the fact that “airing” commercials will indeed “take time and money to advertise for yourself.” That’s an excusable error for a 5th grader, less so for an adult automotive journalist.

      With all the attention focused on getting girls interested in STEM, I’d hope this episode inspired Ms. Loveday to become an engineer, designer or entrepreneur, rather than a politician.

      Reminds me of the Byrds’ song: I Want to Grow Up to Be A Politician.

  • avatar

    Is Elon Musk smarter than a fifth grader?

  • avatar

    Adorable! I hope her dad *did* help her – that sort of collaborative enjoyment of a shared passion (which her father obviously has, being a Journo) is a great way for the two to bond, especially given the reaction. :)

    For all Twitter’s pitfalls, the ability to cut through the red tape and speak directly to people you otherwise would have no chance of reaching is pretty awesome. I’ve had responses from those I’d never speak to otherwise, and that’s pretty cool in and of itself.

    That little girl is going to enter adulthood in a world connected in ways we can’t really imagine right now, and being able to have her father be a part of that process is a very healthy thing.

    Great article, Mr. Shreiber. :)

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    When we had to do this I was in 5th grade. I sent a letter to Jim Davis, of Garfield fame. I got a lovely PR packet back from his publicist with a brief letter signed by Jim.
    I was just glad I got a response. Not everyone who sent a letter did.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    She got her bling. Interestingly enough, she’s not sure if she will participate in the contest.

    They’re thrilled about it over at insideevs, whose detractors accuse them of being a Tesla fanboy site. For his part, Mr Loveday just seems proud of his daughter.

  • avatar

    Great story Ronnie. My son is three and I’m chomping at the bit to be able to do projects like that with him.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Why advertise when you can’t meet existing demand?

  • avatar

    Reminds me of a letter my son did when he was younger. It wasn’t a class project. He was interested is flight and space. After seeing “The Right Stuff” several times he asked me if Chuck Yeager was still living. I responded that he was and encouraged him to write to Mr. Yeager. He took it upon himself to track down an address and sent Mr. Yeager a letter. My son received a nice letter from Mr. Yeager back which was cool for him.

    The closest thing I experienced like this was a response from Lee Iaccoca to a letter I sent to him/Chrysler. I had looked at a used ’84 Shelby Charger – which I eventually bought – at I dealer I’d done business with before. The dealer approached me a while later asking if I’d sent a letter to Iaccoca to which I responded in the affirmative. Evidently Mr. Iaccoca had sent a letter to the dealer also, encouraging him to do whatever could be done to get me in the car, albeit the current ’85 model. It was kind of cool to get a hand signed letter from someone when I never expected it would garner such a response.

    • 0 avatar

      As an adult I bought and read a comprehensive history of Jim Hall’s Chaparral race cars. I was a big fan of his when I was a young teen. The book inspired me to write him a fan letter and he graciously sent me a personalized autographed photo of him with all of the restored Chaparrals.

      During one of the Detroit Red Wings’ Stanley Cup championship runs, the wife of Steve Yzerman, the captain of the team, was 9 months pregnant and Yzerman made it clear that if she went into labor on a game night, he wouldn’t be playing. Now this is a guy who attended practice right after knee surgery because not showing up would send the wrong message, but family comes first.

      As it turned out there wasn’t a conflict. I do machine embroidery and I embroidered a baby bib with a picture of the Stanley Cup and “Big girls drink from real cups”, figured out the Yzerman’s address in Grosse Pointe with the help of the tax rolls and sent it to Mrs. Yzerman with a letter saying her husband was one of the few pro athletes that I considered an appropriate role model for my son. She sent me back a lovely thank you note on her personal stationary.

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