New reporting from Bloomberg suggests that potential Tesla buyers, as well as current Tesla owners, are souring on the brand because of the antics of Tesla boss Elon Musk.
The reporting cites studies that show owners are generally happy with the vehicles — reliability problems aside — but not so much with Musk and his public behavior.
We won’t list all of his real and alleged shenanigans — we don’t have all day, and neither do you — but just recently he’s been accused of having an affair with the wife of one of Google’s founders, he fathered children with one of his executives and tried to keep it quiet, he’s been in engaged in a legal battle over his withdrawal from buying Twitter, and he’s just generally been controversial over the years. This very website isn’t short on both news articles that paint Musk in an unflattering light and critical op-eds.
“Elon has just soiled that brand for me so much that I don’t even think I would take one if I won one,” James Jerry Stone, a Tesla intender, tells Bloomberg. “You have this guy who’s the richest dude in the world, who has this huge megaphone, and he uses it to call somebody a pedophile who’s not, or to fat-shame people, all these things that are just kind of gross.”
Of course, it’s one thing for owners and/or potential buyers to say they’ll shy away from the brand due to Musk — and it’s worth noting there are a lot more EV choices being offered from the other OEMs than there were just a few years ago — and another for them to actually do it. Sales figures show that Tesla is still selling well.
Indeed, Tesla’s success can also be attributed, at least in part, to Musk’s social-media presence. His actions and tweets draw attention, both positive and negative, to the brand, and he’s cultivated a large and loyal following on Twitter — one that will leap to Tesla and Musk’s defense whenever media is critical. This author knows — Musk tweeted about this piece and TTAC’s Twitter account was inundated with angry replies from aggrieved Tesla/Musk stans for days.
It’s a unique position for a modern car company to be in. Most of the American public probably couldn’t name the head of any other car company save maybe Mary Barra at GM. And no other current automaker boss generates attention or moves markets with their tweets. Nor, as far as I can tell, are car buyers turned off by the politics or personal life of any automotive executive except Musk.
I’d be shocked if anyone left a Chevrolet dealer because of something Barra said to the press or canceled a Ford Mustang Mach-E order because of something Jim Farley tweeted (and Farley once trolled Musk via Twitter). Tesla appears unique in this regard.
How much Musk’s tweets and actions will hurt the brand remain to be seen. Even if a few owners don’t re-up or a few potential customers stay away, the number might not be enough to put a true dent in Tesla sales.
That said, it seems that, for Tesla, “all attention is good attention” may no longer be the case. For perhaps the first time, less attention on Musk might be better for the Tesla brand.
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