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Tesla launches social platform to spur owners to take political action on its behalf

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Key Points
  • Tesla has a new social network for fans and customers, Tesla Engage, which essentially replaces the company's earlier Tesla Forums.
  • Tesla is using its updated social platform to spur owners to take political action that benefits the company and potentially other EV businesses.
  • Tesla is also encouraging its fans to make the brand look good by donating to charities in communities where it does business, such as disaster relief efforts in Austin, Texas.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk unveils a new all-wheel-drive version of the Model S car in Hawthorne, California October 9, 2014.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

On Friday, Tesla launched a social platform named Tesla Engage, in part to spur customers to take political action that benefits Elon Musk's electric vehicle and solar company.

While Tesla Engage soft-launched last year and is basically a continuation of the company's online community-building efforts, it represents a more centralized approach to organizing its fans and members of official Tesla Owners Clubs for political purposes.

Tesla's fan base is the envy of all automakers. While it was cultivated in the company's early Roadster years, the fandom grew exponentially with CEO Elon Musk's nonstop engagement with fans and critics online, in particular on Twitter and YouTube.

Tesla fans today run the gamut from vocal, sometimes rabidly so, brand loyalists to bullish stock holders, Elon Musk admirers, auto enthusiasts who love the way a Tesla vehicle drives, and others who want to reduce their environmental impact by driving an electric car or installing solar.

The company's public policy team wrote, on a post introducing its latest effort:

"Tesla Engage is a new platform for both Tesla's public policy team and Tesla Owner's Clubs. Its goal is to create a digital home base for all of our work, and make it easier for Tesla community members to learn what's top of mind for us, take meaningful action, and stay in the loop. We hope you'll join us in getting involved."

Some of the issues seeded on Tesla Engage at launch include:

  • How to bring about a change in metering rules at public EV charging stations in Canada. Currently, EV charging is billable by the minute or the hour in Canada. Many Tesla and other EV drivers want metering to be based upon electricity consumption, not time spent charging.
  • Disaster relief in Texas. Tesla is encouraging owners to donate to a long list of charities in the state that is home to Tesla's second U.S. auto plant and SpaceX Boca Chica facilities. Donating to help people in Texas recover from the cold weather and energy crisis has the added benefit of making Tesla, a newcomer to the state, and its proponents look good.
  • And in a post aimed at Tesla fans in Nebraska, the company is urging residents to push state legislators to change laws that bar Tesla and others from selling vehicles directly to consumers there, i.e., without operating a franchise dealership in the state. They have even provided a quick way for fans to submit public comments on legislation to the Nebraska Senate or to contact the appropriate committee members.

Tesla has long battled to change the laws around direct sales in the U.S. Nebraska and Texas are among more than half a dozen holdouts where Tesla is not supposed to sell directly to consumers and must instead ship vehicles from other states to customers who order online.

The company has succeeded in reversing bans on direct sales in many other states over the past decade, including in Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey and Utah. Tesla is joined by Lordstown Motors, Lucid Motors and Rivian in its efforts to reverse bans on direct sales.

Tesla is expected to retire its earlier Tesla Forums on March 15, rendering comments and posts there "read-only."

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