Will Elon Musk Reward The Oatmeal’s Glowing Tesla Review With an $8M Donation?

Cartoonist seeks help launching museum

Headshot of David Griner

Tesla Motors just got one hell of an unsolicited endorsement, in the form of a glowing review from Model S owner and massively popular cartoonist Matt "The Oatmeal" Inman.

In a lengthy two-part cartoon, Inman first gushes about his love for the electric car (which he calls his "Intergalactic SpaceBoat of Light and Wonder"), then follows up in Part 2 with a request that Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk help invest in preserving the lab equipment used by the company's namesake, Nikola Tesla.

Skeptics will, quite reasonably, note that the lavish praise of Inman's review could be seen as simply buttering up Musk for Part 2's considerable donation request, a whopping $8 million toward Inman's own goal of building a Tesla Museum. 

But clearly if Inman's only goal were coercing money from Musk, he could have done so without spending nearly so much time describing in detail his love for the Model S.

He dotes on the car's touchscreen controls, its safety features and its all-around stellar performance. He also spends considerable time, as many Tesla Motors fans do, assuaging fears from overhyped concerns about range (260 miles between charges for his 85 kwh battery) and potential for fire (very low, considering lack of gasoline and a software upgrade implemented after a few early, non-injury fires).

And then, of course, he asks Elon Musk for $8 million. 

Obviously, Inman is no journalist, so he's not bound by any sort of perceived conflict of interest. If anything, he deserves points for being rather candid with his two-part Tesla-themed opus. There's also the fact that Inman has been no slouch on the Tesla Museum fundraising front, having generated $1.37 million in donations from fans to save the inventor's lab from destruction.

In the end, Inman's positivity, proven passion and direct appeal have effectively put Musk in quite a bind.

The entrepreneur's beloved vehicle now has a sky-illuminating endorsement from one of the Internet's most popular creative talents, and it comes at a vital moment in Tesla's goal of becoming a mainstream national auto brand.

But will he feel indebted enough to Inman to cough up $8 million and co-found a museum to one of history's greatest inventors? Time will tell. Or as Tesla himself put it, "Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments."

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@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."