- George Clooney said in a recent Esquire interview that he was not happy with his 2008 Tesla Roadster, triggering a vigorous defense of the car from Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
- The actor bought the car new and drove it for just 1,825 miles before auctioning it off for charity.
- Clooney's remarks come at a time when the NHTSA is investigating Tesla for several vehicles that caught on fire during collisions.
HOLLYWOOD, California — Actor George Clooney, an early adopter of the Tesla brand when he bought his Tesla Roadster in 2008, said in a recent interview that he was not happy with the high-end electric sports car. The negative comments triggered a vigorous defense of the car from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who called it a "needless comment, needlessly reported."
"I was one of the first cats with a Tesla," the actor told journalist Tom Junod in the interview published in Esquire. "I think I was, like, number five on the list. But I'm telling you, I've been on the side of the road a while in that thing. And I said to them, 'Look, guys, why am I always stuck on the side of the f***ing road? Make it work, one way or another.'?"
Clooney was displeased enough with the car, Tesla Roadster serial number 0008, that he sold it in 2012 at a Gooding & Company auction at Pebble Beach, raising $99,000 for charity. At the time it had been driven only 1,825 miles.
"It's not a Model S," Musk said, referring to Tesla's latest production model. "It's not even recent. It's not even news. I'm not sure why it was even reported. I mean, like saying, you know, my iPhone 1 in 2001 had a bug."
Musk made his comments to journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin in a recent interview. Tesla Motors provided Edmunds with a transcript of his remarks. Musk described Clooney's comment as "offhand" and said it was old news.
Clooney's remarks come at a bad time for Tesla. As reported by Edmunds, three of the EV manufacturer's Model S coupes have caught fire in just over a month, possibly due to battery damage during collisions. As a result, some safety advocates are calling for an official inquiry into the vehicle's design, and a law firm has filed a class-action suit against the company for misleading investors about the fire risk.
The NHTSA is looking into the fires but has not yet issued a recall.
Tesla CEO Musk, writing about one of the collisions on the Tesla Web site, noted that the fire was likely caused by the car running over a chunk of metal in the road. "Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway," he wrote, "the result could have been far worse."
Amid the controversy, or perhaps because of it, Tesla's stock took a pounding, sinking 20 percent in the past month. Although the headline-making reports may have cooled off investors, Tesla stock is a still a top performer on the NASDAQ index, up more than 300 percent year-to-date.
Bad news aside, Tesla's EVs have become the darling of the Hollywood set. Owners include such familiar names as Will Smith, Ben Affleck, Demi Moore, Seth Green, Jennifer Garner and Morgan Freeman. Some are attracted to the sporty looks and performance, while others tout the vehicles' environmental friendliness.
Clooney doesn't count himself in that group. Even though he's known for his political and social activism, the actor told Junod: "I probably wouldn't be a good spokesman for an electric car, because I'll still get on a private jet, and one flight on a private jet undoes all my electric-car good deeds."
Not to worry, though. Clooney won't be hurting for something to drive. A noted collector of cars and motorcycles, his current stable includes a gray Lexus, presumably for grocery shopping, a black Porsche Carrera and a red 1959 Corvette roadster that's been in his family since new.
Edmunds says: Although Clooney's remarks probably won't do permanent damage to Tesla's reputation, we do appreciate the Gravity of the situation.