Some recent research has shown what we all knew — Elon Musk’s escapades into wildly-incorrect-conspiracy-theory land and his seemingly full-time effort to try to save Twitter in order to “save” humanity (or something like that) have not been working wonders on Tesla’s brand. In fact — shocker — pushing numerous debunked (and sometimes just obviously illogical) conspiracy theories and tweeting almost every day about the dire, dangerous, very scary threat of people being “woke” appears to have made many fans lose faith in his focus, his intelligence, his problem-solving skills, and his leadership; and have also made many people (including longtime Tesla owners) swear off buying a Tesla (or another one, as the case may be).
One can shoot the messenger in the virtual foot if that makes them feel better. One can ignore the volcanic Twitter activity and all the mud on the face of Tesla (since Elon has long been the face of Tesla). But millions of people are not ignoring what’s happening, and research is starting to show the effect this is having on the Tesla brand.
As a quick note, I think what is often lost in the dust of this communications disaster is that Tesla is full of extremely hard-working, intelligent, and, yes, progressive people. The company is built on tens of thousands of amazing humans who believe in the noble, urgent, clear-eyed mission of Tesla. Elon has made many important decisions at the company, and there is no denying that Tesla wouldn’t be where it is without him. I think it is an enormous and counterproductive mistake to claim that Elon hasn’t been instrumental to Tesla’s success. However, it also wouldn’t have succeeded without tens of thousands of other people. Furthermore, at this point, it’s not clear what Elon contributes to Tesla as its head honcho. It appears that manufacturing and growth in manufacturing capacity are being led well by others. Full Self Driving is … well … incomplete at this stage, and we don’t know for sure if the Elon-led team is going down a dead-end street or will be standing alone as king of the general-AI self-driving mountain in coming years. What we know at the moment, though, is that Elon’s controversial and often misguided tweeting is putting the Tesla brand and all of those workers in poor light for millions of people.
Tesla Fans & Bullish Shareholders Losing Patience
You could take my word for it on all of this, but if you haven’t been following yourself, you may be wondering if I’m blowing this out of proportion or am being soft on Elon and the situation. I just collected a series of tweets from a number of previously bullish Tesla fans and shareholders who have lost their patience or are losing it. Several of these people, or maybe even most of them, have stood by Elon and defended him over a variety of matters in recent years. (For that matter, I’ve done so for a decade!) These are not people with inherent biases against Musk — quite the opposite. Some of these people are very large Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) shareholders.
There are also some specific topics people have been concerned about. For example, many are concerned that he doesn’t seem to understand the basics of why Donald Trump was banned from Twitter, the timeline on that, or why it’s not some illegal or harmful conspiracy to shut down the account of someone who has been trying to overthrow the US government.
But if we went through all of these, we’d have more than a dozen articles explaining why some wackadoodle conspiracy theory someone fed Elon is completely wackadoodle.
Also, no one outside of Elon’s circle of influence should have to do this. The big, big issue for many fans and shareholders is that Elon seems to have shut out anyone who disagrees with him on anything notable, or even anything small. The concern is that Elon has lost touch with reality because he’s increasingly lacking anyone close to him who can correct errors and misinformation that are leading him astray.
There’s no separating Elon from the Tesla brand. The biggest move he could make to help with that (as if there’s a way he could see the need for this), would be stepping down from his role as CEO — er … “Technoking.” Even if he did that, though, he’d still be the largest shareholder and the face of Tesla historically. The way to improve the situation would be to stop pushing wackadoodle conspiracy theories, apologize (haha), and become a more neutral, moderate observer who takes in a wide variety of facts and arguments rather than jumping to often incorrect conclusions. Of course, that’s not happening, so here we are.
There’s plenty of “Twitter evidence” above to tell the story of what’s been happening, but let’s look at some more statistically useful research.
HundredX: Tesla brand has dropped sharply
Tesla has long led brand loyalty in the auto market, but recent research shows it has now dropped below the auto industry average. “The future loyalty data is really, really worrisome if you’re Tesla because it tends to translate into market share six to nine months out,” says Rob Pace, founder and CEO of research firm HundredX. “There are storm clouds.” (It’s getting stormy indeed.) “HundredX has been tracking Tesla via brand loyalty surveys since 2019. The now-Texas-based electric automaker, Pace says, consistently posted the most impressive brand loyalty numbers in the automotive industry. Around 70% of Tesla owners consistently said they planned to purchase from Tesla again when they needed another car,” KBB writes. Now, Pace says, the number has begun to fall rapidly. In HundredX’s most recent tracking survey, it dipped below 60%. The industry average is around 65%.
Cox Automotive: EV-shopper interest in Tesla has dropped sharply
KBB added that its parent company, Cox Automotive, typically found that 75% of EV shoppers considered a Tesla but that figure has dropped to 64%.
YouGov: Tesla has negative profile for first time
The large UK-based research firm YouGov has been tracking views of thousands of popular brands for ages. That includes tracking Tesla since 2016. For the first time since YouGov started tracking Tesla, perception of the company has crossed over from a net positive to a net negative.
Not only that, but this has been a sharp drop. “The electric automaker started 2022 with a net-positive score of 5.9%, then peaked in May at 6.7%. In early November, it fell to -1.4%.”
As it turns out, Elon has been burning up support from the people who buoyed and built Tesla for years. As the Wall Street Journal summarizes, “self-described liberals now view Tesla more negatively than conservatives, though conservatives also have a negative view of the brand on average.”
And the gain in favourability from republicans is NOT offsetting the loss from democrats. pic.twitter.com/futMUVhpYb
— James Cat (@TSLAFanMtl) November 30, 2022
9/…intention is down considerably in the past 7 months, with the biggest peak-to-trough we can observe in the data since they started measuring in Q4 of 2018.
And the decline seems to start in April/May 2022…right when Elon really started with the Twitter shenanigans.
— James Cat (@TSLAFanMtl) November 26, 2022
Morning Consult: Same thing
Yet another major polling firm comes to the same conclusion. “Morning Consult, a U.S.-based polling firm, also finds that negative perceptions of Tesla are increasing. The company surveys about 200 Americans daily to test their attitudes about several prominent brands. At the start of 2022, it said, 43% of Americans viewed Tesla positively, while 15% had a negative opinion of the company. As of Nov. 27, 38% saw the company positively, while 22% viewed it negatively.”
1/Ok so I completed the analysis I was talking about. I was curious to see what I could learn from Tesla’s domain traffic. Since all of Tesla’s sales are generated exclusively through their website, this could serve as a good proxy for orders/demand.
What I learned tracks with..
— James Cat (@TSLAFanMtl) November 21, 2022
The evidence is here. People can ignore it. We mostly don’t write about it. But Elon Musk tilting at woke windmills is hurting the Tesla brand, a lot.
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
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