Tesla over Ford? Dreams of my father – The Mercury News

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2017

When I read that Tesla had surpassed Ford in market cap to become the second-largest automaker in America, I wondered how the news would have struck my father, Bob Herhold  — pastor, playwright, peace advocate, and devout car guy.

After all, my father had once toyed with the idea of becoming a car dealer himself.  In the late 1940s, he and a partner explored the notion of trying to get a Midwest dealership from Preston Tucker, the failed entrepreneur whose cars were ahead of their time.

My father was never really a Ford man.  His parents shunned Fords. Beginning in seminary with a 1932 Chevy that had a rumble seat, my dad owned a succession of GM and Chrysler products, with a few foreign models thrown in for pace.

True, he did own a yellow Ford Falcon station wagon when I was in high school in Tucson, a car that got me into trouble when I used it to play cop one night on Oracle Road by switching on the four-way flasher. That’s a story for another time.

Generally, my dad kept a car no more than three years, an interval that shortened as he got older and had the money to change his ride easily.  He would check the classified ads and pick up the phone to call strangers about their transmissions.

The Rev. Bob Herhold at age 40, the year he joined Martin Luther King Jr.'s Selma march
The Rev. Bob Herhold at age 40. Herhold family

It relaxed him to visit a used-car lot and “kick tires,’’ as he described it.  If anyone in the family needed a car, he served as adviser, scout and negotiator. He insisted that used-car salesmen had more honor than his doctors.

Sometimes, his predilection for finding something new would get him into trouble.  He once bought a flashy red convertible and realized that the bucket seat did not fit his posterior.  It cost him a few bucks to persuade the dealer to take it back.

Sometimes, too, classic cars slipped through his fingers. He once owned a 1956 blue-and-white Chevy that he bought new with his father’s help. For reasons I didn’t fathom, it was gone three years later.

At one point he even brought home a Bentley. Whether he owned it outright was lost in the fog of one of his many deals. But it’s accepted family lore that he could have kept it.

In the end, my father often came back to Mercedes, which presented a delicate issue for a Lutheran minister of his time (early 1950s to the mid-’80s.)

At some of his churches, it just wouldn’t do for a pastor to show up in a Mercedes to visit a mourning family. People might ask whether he was paid too much.

So my father waited until he had left parish work — except for filling in occasionally — before buying his first Mercedes, a yellow used diesel model. You could tell he liked it: He kept it well beyond the three-year mark.

What would he have thought about Elon Musk’s Tesla? My father would have been fascinated with the car.  He would have yearned for a test ride. He would have loved the big display panel. If a miracle occurred and he could find a used one at the right price, he might well have opened negotiations.

But the concept of waiting in line for a Model S — or whatever — would not have suited his style.  When it came to cars, my dad preferred instant gratification.  He wanted to drive it home from the lot.

Would he have bought Tesla stock before Ford?  My dad, who died at 81 in 2006, was not a stock guy. He preferred to invest in real estate, a good choice in the ’70s and ’80s.

He wasn’t a Ford man, either.  But if you put a gun to his head, I’m fairly certain he would have bought Ford (F)  before Tesla  (TSLA).  He always liked a bargain.


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