What’s With the Lack of Teslas in Movies and Television?

They’re sleek, they’re sexy, and they’re state-of-the-art. Tesla vehicles are everything we’ve come to expect from the cars used in big-budget movies and television shows. Yet we rarely, if ever, see characters driving them on screen. Why is that?


The answer – from what we gather – may come as a surprise to most people. Given the pop culture status of Tesla as the automotive brand of the future, it’d be easy to assume the company has been driven to put its products in the spotlight as much as possible. But the lack of Teslas in movies and television contradicts that assumption.


How long until Carrie Mathison is seen driving a Model S? When will we see James Bond plug an EV charger into his weaponized Roadster? Will Tesla vehicles ever become more common on screen?


Occasional Sightings


Believe it or not, but Tesla vehicles have appeared in more TV shows than you might realize. The reason we don’t remember them is two-fold: the shows tend to be those which only lasted a season or two, and the production typically didn’t make the vehicles the subject of focus in the scenes they were used in. Similar to spotting a celebrity cameo in the background of a shot, you have to be paying close attention to notice they’re there in the first place.


Perhaps the easiest to spot Tesla cameo is in the first Iron Man movie. We briefly see an early model Roadster in the garage of Tony Stark. However, we don’t see him drive it anywhere. In continuation of this theme, Elon Musk has a brief cameo in Iron Man 2 released two years later.


The Reason Why


Tesla, Inc. is a household name in the United States and much of the world, despite the fact there are less than one million Tesla vehicles currently on the road. That kind of popularity is difficult for any brand to achieve, let alone one with a relatively minuscule market share. You’d think Tesla would be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to reach that level of recognition, but the truth is the company doesn’t spend a dime on advertising or endorsements.


This means that, unlike the majority of automakers, Tesla doesn’t push for product placement in film and television. A movie or TV production has to actively acquire a Tesla vehicle if they want it to appear on screen. What’s more, while product placement deals stipulate the product be glaringly present in one or more shots, such a requirement is nonexistent for Tesla vehicles used in movies and TV shows. The result is a situation where Tesla vehicles are used sparingly and not made to be the focal point in the frame unless the filmmakers want it that way.


Another (Possible) Reason


While a lack of Tesla product placement explains why we don’t see more of them in film and television, that doesn’t mean filmmakers wouldn’t be interested in using them anyway. There are plenty of examples of products being featured in media without a product placement deal, simply because the producers consider it important enough to the story. Given this fact, there’s got to be another reason for the lack of Tesla vehicles in movies and TV.


While it’s just our speculation, we think the other reason for the absence of Tesla cars in film and television is the whisper-quiet nature of electric motors. Most people come to expect cars to emit a variety of engine noises when being driven, especially if it’s during a high-speed chase or high-stakes street race. The absence of hallmark sounds of a fast-moving vehicle creates an awkwardness on screen. Filmmakers would invariably decide to edit the sounds of a gas-powered vehicle into the scene. While practical from a moviemaking standpoint, such a decision is laughable from any other perspective.


Still, one of the best things about movies and television shows is their ability to challenge norms and establish new ones. A car chase or street race where the vehicles barely make a sound except for braking might be the kind of thing that could make an otherwise standard scene something that generates buzz.


But until then, I guess we’ll keep our eyes peeled for the rare Tesla cameo.

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