Opinion: This is Tesla Town

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I’m heartened to see work being done by Rivian to restore and reopen our landmark Laguna Cinemas. And we now know they have plenty of cash to do it, owing to their record IPO that raised $12 billion and valued them at $90 billion—before ever producing a single vehicle.

I wish them well and hope the theater really is a community-gathering place that screens interesting and offbeat films instead of a thinly veiled auto showroom.

But make no mistake. No matter how much Rivian invests in our town to confer status and goodwill upon the brand by leveraging one of Laguna’s most iconic buildings—and by default our very cool gestalt—they won’t make a dent in the sway Tesla has gained over us.

Laguna should be re-christened Tesla Town. It seems like every other car here is a Tesla. Have you noticed? Sometimes I’ll see three or four moving consecutively through traffic, or parked in a row. I haven’t seen this much of a seismic shift in autos since the Volkswagen Beetle stormed onto the scene to slay the gas guzzlers with the iconic ad campaign, “Think Small.” And yet Tesla doesn’t have to spend a penny on advertising. Word of mouth is their greatest promotional tool.

Laguna is a textbook market for Tesla—small, rich, and educated—a perfect convergence for California loving car owners who know it’s the greatest vehicle ever produced, and untethers them from the oil industry and their unseemly prices at the pump. Not to mention eschewing those filthy handles!

As for Rivian, they are initially introducing an electric pickup truck that is billed as an outdoor adventure vehicle. It’s the biggest, most lucrative automotive category in the U.S. But they’ll have stiff competition from the Ford F-150 Lightning, which is swamped with orders and goes on sale next year. Chevy and Ram will be right behind. And never count out Tesla with their futuristic Cybertruck.

Laguna isn’t much of a pickup town to begin with, except perhaps to carry surfboards or mountain bikes. Let’s face it, most residents don’t use their hands for a living, or haul lots of tools. Instead, Lagunans are swarming those four robust Tesla models – the S, X, 3 and Y. And they’re everywhere, in black, white, grey, red and blue. If you travel outside the state however, Teslas are still a relative novelty, with consumers hesitant over range anxiety, or lack of supercharging stations, or even the audacious Elon Musk. But just wait until every cowboy owns an electric pickup, the ranges exceed 500 miles, and cars are priced under $40,000. We will see an electric revolution and it will help save our planet.

Laguna is a wonderful bellwether of what’s to come. Elon is certainly a character that loves to tweak convention, Wall Street, and doubters, but he is without a doubt the single most decisive force in weaning us off fossil fuels. Not only with cars, but with solar energy, tunnels, and people movers. And he’s forcing all the other automotive companies to play catch up. Yet as robust as Tesla sales are, it is thought that the company will ultimately derive more value from its home energy division. So for those of you concerned with the intermittent power outages we are experiencing, a quiet and efficient solution is the Tesla solar roofs and power walls to store the energy. The federal infrastructure plan is extending generous tax credits as an incentive.

I have no doubt that Laguna will be an early adapter. Not only are we going to see a surge in Accessory Dwelling Units to help confront our housing crisis, but I predict many of them will be swathed in the attractive shiny black solar roof tiles that integrate so perfectly and also generate power that will eventually render fossil fuels obsolete.

The future looks bright—and powered by batteries, not oil.

Billy hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on KXFM Radio. He can be reached at [email protected]

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