Elon Musk was once the darling of the electric vehicle community. A wealthy and hot-headed CEO with an ability to exploit social media, those same factors that made him a popular figure can now hurt the company he helped grow.
Studies increasingly show that while Tesla owners are happy with their vehicles, they want the company’s CEO to be less controversial.
“We hear Tesla owners say, ‘Listen, I love my vehicle, but I really wish I didn’t have to respond to my friends and family about his last tweet,'” said Mike Dovorany, who surveyed electric vehicle owners and potential owners. buyers while working with Escalent, Al Jezeera told Al Jezeera.
Also read: Twitter is suing Elon Musk and wants him to buy the social media giant
Elon Musk has long been a lightning rod for news coverage, and his Twitter activity has long contributed to Tesla’s growing fortunes. In the company’s early days, his attitude benefited the company and earned him an army of fanboys.
It has encouraged its name and the Tesla brand to become almost synonymous, but what was once a feature may now be a flaw. Since becoming the richest person in the world, embroiled himself in political disputes and trying to buy Twitter, in addition to being at the center of several personal controversies, his fame could turn into infamy.
“Elon just smeared this mark so badly for me that I don’t even think I would take one if I won one,” said Jerry James Stone, a 48-year-old Sacramento, Calif., resident who is considering buying an EV, Al Jazeera told Al Jazeera. “You have this guy who is the richest dude in the world, who has this huge megaphone, and he uses it to call somebody a pedophile who isn’t, or to shame people, all those things which are just a little gross.”
As traditional automakers increasingly commit to electric vehicles, Tesla’s grip on the electric vehicle market is loosening. This allows consumers who might have once overlooked Musk’s controversies to look elsewhere.
“We saw among early adopters more of a willingness to take risks or put up with things that are out of the ordinary,” Dovorany said. “We don’t see that as much with inbound buyers.”
Even fans who once described themselves as fanboys are looking elsewhere. Dennis Levitt, a 73-year-old who has owned at least four Teslas since 2016, told Al Jazeera his next electric vehicle could come from Audi, Mercedes or BMW instead of Tesla.
“If you take Mr. Musk and his antics out of the equation, I’m about 98% sure my next car would be a Tesla,” Levitt says. “His antics put me on the line.”