Bring to mind a car rally in Australia and you might imagine greasy hands, roaring engines and huddles of revheads leaning under rows of propped-up bonnets.

But for one Perth car club, get-togethers are more likely to feature conversations about app upgrades than pistons and cylinders.

As enamoured with their vehicles as any Ford or Holden petrol head, these Tesla owners are part of a devoted global fanbase that some observers have likened to a cult.

Members of the growing Tesla Owners Club WA expressed admiration for the company, but said they were not “blind” followers of the brand.

While Harold Murphy admits he is a very enthusiastic Tesla owner, he said it has not caused him to lose perspective.

“I’m not one of these unthinking people that just blindly says ‘Oh Tesla is everything,'” Mr Murphy said.

“I’m not brand loyal, per se. I am feature loyal, and technology loyal.”

Mr Murphy is one of about 2,500 active members of the WA Tesla club, which is the only one of its kind in Australia.

The growing membership reflects an “explosion” in electric vehicle ownership in WA since 2020.

“For me it was about the technology. I described the Tesla as an iPad on wheels,” he said.

“I just saw that technology and thought, ‘That’s the car for me.'”

Sales growth follows slow start

For the past two years, WA has seen the largest growth in Tesla sales in the country, according to registration data collected by transport collective Austroads Ltd.

Riz Akhtar, the founder of Carloop, which collects data to inform decision-making on policy and infrastructure for electric vehicles in Australia, said the number of Tesla sales in WA spiked dramatically after a slow entry to the market.

He said in 2020 there were fewer than 300 Teslas registered in WA.

“Western Australia has been an interesting one where there wasn’t a lot of activity going on in the year 2020,” Mr Akhtar said.

“In 2021, though, the market exploded. So, there was a 445 per cent increase in Tesla uptake in 2021, compared to 2020.”

In 2022 Carloop records show that more than 2,000 Teslas were delivered to waiting buyers in WA, an increase of more than 500 from 2021.

Another 500 have arrived in Fremantle since the start of the new year.

In May last year, the WA government announced it would provide up to 10,000 rebates of $3,500 to residents who bought an electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle valued at under $70,000.

The government has also committed to creating an “EV network” from Kununurra in the state’s north, south to Esperance and east to Eucla.

Solar power compatibility a factor

Rob Dean, founder of the Tesla Owners Club of WA, said he thought the state’s high rate of home solar power usage played a role in WA’s growing interest in electric vehicles — including his own.

But he said it was incorrect to assume most EV owners were primarily motivated to buy their vehicles due to environmental concerns.

Mr Dean said it was one of a number of misconceptions that existed about EV ownership.

“We don’t all live in the western suburbs of Perth, we don’t all drink chardonnay,” he said.

“And some of us do actually like petrol cars. And we do like going to car shows and seeing V8s and other cars like that.”

Pete Petrovsky, another member of the group, said his reasons for buying the vehicle related to technology and safety.

He felt it was also a financial investment similar to purchasing a home solar power system with a substantial initial spend to save money in the longer-term.

“Some people like it for the environmental credentials, other people like it for the economics,” he said.

“You can see where the petrol prices are at the moment.

“For me, it was all of that, and more.”

Mr Petrovsky said he loved the technological perks of his vehicle and enjoyed experimenting with new digital tools as they became available through upgrades.

Although the number of other electric vehicle brands and models have been growing, Teslas have dominated the Australian electric vehicle market to date.

Publications including Psychology Today and American news website Axios have reported on the “cult” of Tesla and its chief executive Elon Musk, suggesting the brand and its leader had a dedicated following driven by more than just product loyalty.

But in spite of record sales in Australia in 2022, Tesla’s share price halved last year.

Some investors raised concerns that Musk had become distracted by his turbulent acquisition of Twitter, and that his handling of the takeover was hurting the Tesla brand.

But the three owners interviewed by ABC said Musk’s character had no bearing on their feelings about the brand.

“No-one knows about who the general manager of General Motors is, or Ford or whatever,” Mr Murphy said.

“Yes, Elon Musk is a colourful character, but we just put that aside and focus on the product.”

Mr Petrovksy agreed, saying he did not believe Musk’s activities would hurt the brand long-term.

“With Twitter, people are throwing their arms up now and it all seems to be in disarray,” he said.

“But in two or three years’ time, we will be looking back at it and saying, ‘Look, what a great public town square that has created.'”

Mr Akhtar said he thought the upward trend in Tesla sales would continue as upcoming, cheaper models were released.

But he said Tesla would face competition from newer brands such as the Chinese car maker BYD, which had already shown rapid growth in Australia since releasing vehicles into the market last year.

“Within the last three to four months of 2022 they started delivering cars to customers, and by the end of the year, they already had the third best-selling electric vehicle in Australia,” he said.

“There will be more demand for electric vehicles.

“I sometimes think of it like when people started to see iPhones. And when one person had one, then everyone else had to have one.”

Extracted in full from: EV market ‘explodes’ in WA over past two years as state has nation’s highest growth in Tesla sales – ABC News