Posted on April 28, 2016 by Mike Pressman
Maybe you saw the Saturday Night Live (SNL) sketch this weekend where Julia Louis-Dreyfus presented a new Mercedes-Benz battery powered car, except it's powered by AA batteries? It's gone viral so you've probably seen it. But was it an underhanded Tesla-diss paid for by Mercedes?
Source: Saturday Night Live
If you check out the video (see below), within the first few shots it's apparent it may be a "co-branded" or "sponsored sketch" paid for by Mercedes, more commonly know as 'product placement'. The way the Mercedes logo was featured so prominently, the precise cinematography of the car, the super high-production value and special effects -- hmmm, this was not the normal SNL mock commercial.
And if not sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, then why use a Mercedes, wouldn't a Volkswagen have been a funnier, more topical choice? SNL also just announced they will have fewer commercial breaks next season, one wonders if sponsored sketches are their future? Even more curious, Mercedes-Benz USA was quick to merrily tweet about the skit as well...
Twitter: Mercedes-Benz USA
But did Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a Tesla owner herself, understand how this joke may feed EV-adverse or poorly informed car buyers? Anyone who has knowledge of Tesla, like Julia, would see this and laugh, obviously an electric vehicle battery pack is not simply a pile of AA batteries, but to those with no EV knowledge this could promote the concept that EVs are a strange, silly, laughable technology. Even inspire some Gas-Pride... 'I don't want a bunch of Duracells in my car, I'll keep my gas guzzler thank you very much!'
Above: Tesla takes the crown in U.S. for best selling large luxury auto in 2015 pulling ahead of Mercedes (Source: Capital Market Laboratories)
Don't forget: the Tesla Model S just pulled ahead of Mercedes in the large luxury segment to become the top-selling premium vehicle in both the U.S. and Western Europe. However, as we've seen before, many everyday car owners dislike change and we know the automotive industry, especially giants like Mercedes who've barely entered the EV market, are relying on this ill-informed audience for their longevity.
Above: Tesla Model S takes the crown in Europe for best selling luxury car in 2015 pulling ahead of Mercedes (Source: Automotive Industry Data (AID) Newsletter)
Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz certainly isn't the first to try something underhanded with Tesla. Nissan recently released this snarky ad campaign insulting Tesla Model 3 reservation holders.
Source: Techno Buffalo
Another recent dig at Tesla came from GM when during its Chevy Bolt announcement, according to The Verge, "GM CEO Mary Barra threw some shade at Elon Musk and Tesla during her CES keynote... she touted GM's extensive franchised dealer network as a key advantage over Tesla's much smaller, corporate-owned network."
Above: Tesla pulls ahead of Mercedes (Source: Motor Trend)
Okay... back to that Mercedes skit on SNL. Maybe I have too much Tesla pride. Or maybe it's my 20+ years of experience working in TV production that's jaded my view on this -- in any event, something is fishy. There is nothing wrong with a comedy sketch poking fun at EVs but something about this was suspect. If Mercedes did sponsor the skit, it's yet another clear sign that Tesla and EVs are viewed as a major threat to big auto.