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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Tesla’s Image and Sales Take a Hit Amid Elon Musk’s Controversial Public Persona

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, is one of the most closely identified auto executives with his company. However, his increasingly right-wing public persona is reportedly affecting Tesla’s sales, particularly among liberal and left-leaning customers who are more likely to buy electric vehicles. Analysts and many car owners who responded to a questionnaire on The New York Times’s website indicated that Musk’s behavior has influenced their views on Tesla.

Musk’s image as an erratic and impulsive manager has seemingly affected perceptions of Tesla’s cars, raising doubts about their quality. This may help explain the recent decline in Tesla’s sales. On Tuesday, Tesla reported a 4.8 percent drop in global sales for the second quarter compared to the same period a year earlier, following an 8.5 percent decline in the first quarter.

Tesla and a representative for its board did not respond to requests for comment.

Over 7,500 people responded to The Times’s questionnaire, many of whom were critical of Musk. Some respondents were offended by what they perceived as antisemitism from Musk, which he denies. Others were upset by his management of Twitter (now called X) since acquiring it in 2022, including firing thousands of employees and removing content guardrails. His friendly relations with former President Donald J. Trump and other conservative figures also raised concerns.

“You’re basically driving around a giant red MAGA hat,” said Aaron Shepherd, a product designer at Microsoft in Seattle, who plans to buy an electric Volkswagen ID.4 instead of a Tesla.

While it is difficult to quantify the exact impact of Musk’s political statements on Tesla’s sales, it is evident that the company, once the dominant seller of electric vehicles worldwide, has lost market share for various reasons. Chief among them is the reliance on the Model Y sport utility vehicle and the Model 3 sedan, which have not seen substantial updates in years. Other companies are attracting buyers by introducing new or updated models more frequently.

Respondents to The Times’s questionnaire indicated that they were turned off by Musk’s statements and their experience with Tesla’s cars and service operations. Tesla sells and services cars directly, rather than through dealers, which has led to some dissatisfaction among customers.

Despite Musk’s confidence, the recent sales figures and customer feedback suggest that his controversial public persona may indeed be affecting Tesla’s performance.

David Faber
David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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