Anne Marie Squeo, a marketing and communications professional who was 55 years old when she received her fiery red Tesla sports utility vehicle in 2020, felt like she had joined a special “club” of people who were doing something to help the environment while still driving with style. Squeo’s new vehicle was a fiery red Tesla.
But this past year, Anne Marie’s joy turned to humiliation as Tesla chief Elon Musk promoted right-wing conspiracy theories on Twitter, uploaded a photo of guns by his bedside, and proposed terms to conclude the crisis in Ukraine that was strongly opposed by many of the country’s top authorities.
Anne Marie, a former journalist who now resides in Connecticut and has written an essay on her discomfort, stated that “it’s been incredibly gloomy, and sometimes embarrassing to be driving this automobile around,” while speaking about her current situation. “I couldn’t help but wonder whether other individuals were forming opinions about me that I hadn’t sought out.”
Elon Musk was once hailed as the key to Tesla’s success; however, he now appears to be one of the company’s biggest problems, as his consistent stream of politically charged social media posts alienates key parts of Tesla’s customer base. This occurs at the same time that increased competition begins to eat away at the company’s dominance in the market for electric cars.
The value of Tesla shares fell by approximately two-thirds over the course of the past year, which was the largest decline since the company went public in 2010. This was a reflection of the worries, as well as concerns about disruptions to production and the effect that high borrowing costs and a weaker economy would have on demand.
In December, significant investors, many of whom had been Mr. Musk’s long-time allies, went public with their alarm, accusing him of abandoning Tesla following his $44 billion (£36.4 billion) buy of Twitter in October and hurting the brand of the automobile firm.
The fact that Mr. Musk sold almost $20 billion worth of Tesla shares in the previous year did not assist the situation. These sales were negative for the stock and were at least partially inspired by the purchase of Twitter.
“It has been tremendously expensive for everyone involved. There is no doubt that it did not safeguard Tesla shareholders “According to investor Ross Gerber, who is currently campaigning for a position on Tesla’s board of directors and calling for changes, including starting to spend money on advertising, which is something Tesla has prided itself on being able to do without for a long time, the company needs to change.
Mr. Gerber, who is the head of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management and who describes himself as a friend of Mr. Musk, has stated that he continues to have optimism over the company’s prospects and that his firm has boosted its holdings of the stock despite its recent decline.
However, he believes that the company needs a committed top executive and that it should develop its own voice, one that is separate from Mr. Musks.
According to what he has to say, “it’s very hard to think now that Elon is a beneficial advertising force for Tesla.”
This week, Mr. Musk, who has more than 127 million followers on Twitter, responded to claims that his unvarnished manner on social media was damaging the Tesla brand by stating that his massive following “speaks for itself.”
But in recent weeks, in response to concerns about buyer demand, Tesla announced significant price cuts in the United States, Europe, and China. In the United States, these price cuts ranged as high as 20% for some models.
Analysts anticipate that the move will mitigate some of the harm to the brand, as financial considerations will likely trump customers’ ethical concerns.
However, this decision will have a negative impact on the profit margins of the company, and it will be impossible for some customers to go back on their purchases.
When purchasing an electric car last year, Indie Grant, who works in the insurance industry in New Zealand, decided against purchasing a Tesla owing to the political stances taken by Elon Musk and instead went with a Peugeot.
“Because he is so closely associated with the company, purchasing a Tesla might feel a lot like making a subtle but constant declaration that you like Elon Musk’s work. I am in awe of everything he creates,’ “the person ages, 35 years old, remarks.
“That really wasn’t the message we wanted to deliver, and with so many options, pulling that out of the running didn’t affect the choices all that much,” she said. “With so many options.”
According to Indie, there is very little that may inspire a purchase of a Tesla right now. “The only thing that could affect my impression of Tesla is if he were to no longer be affiliated with it.”
Mr. Musk has previously found himself in trouble as a result of his statements on social media.
The company and Mr. Musk each paid $20 million to settle the allegations of fraud that were brought against them as a result of the first post, which was about the possibility of taking Tesla private in 2018. This week, he was back in court defending the article in a class-action lawsuit that was brought by stockholders who claimed that they lost money as a result of the share price gyrations that occurred after the post was published.
A second incident, in which Mr. Musk insulted a man who had been engaged in the rescue of Thai schoolboys by referring to him as a “pedo guy,” resulted in a defamation lawsuit, which Mr. Musk ultimately prevailed in by claiming that he did not believe the slur would be taken seriously.
However, now that he owns the platform, Mr. Musk is not merely another person tweeting; rather, he is the platform’s creator.
This has increased the likelihood of his political views, which he shares with an increasing frequency, having an effect on how Twitter moderates the content that is posted on its site. This is a matter that many people, including Mr. Musk, have described as being important to the democratic process in the United States.
After taking over, Mr. Musk moved quickly to remove the ban on former US President Donald Trump. He also issued a tweet that read: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” in reference to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the public face of the US Covid-19 response. This caused outrage among liberals, who are the most likely to purchase electric cars in the United States, which is Tesla’s biggest market.
According to Jordan Marlatt, a tech analyst at Morning Consult, “This is largely a political story.” Morning Consult monitors the public perception of thousands of brands in the United States. Since April, when Mr. Musk first announced the Twitter deal, the firm has seen a sharp decline in favorability towards Tesla among Democrats. “This is largely a political story,” Marlatt says.
“He has been much more open on his personal politics than he has been in the past, and that is having an effect on consumer attitude,”
According to Mr. Marlatt, it takes brands an average of ninety days to recover from the damage caused by situations that are politically sensitive.
“That consistent drumbeat” is what differentiates Twitter from Tesla, according to what he has to say. “It happens every day, and almost every hour on certain days,” she said.
Previous controversies, according to Anne Marie, who has voted for both the Democrats and the Republicans, felt more like one-off events; however, the flood of commentary that occurred in 2017 wore her down.
She continues, “The fact that Elon Musk is kind of a wild card is nothing new.” “What was different was the level of consistency in doing it every day and the fact that he was really going after social issues with the apparent intent of riling people up,” the author writes. “What was different was this level of consistency in doing it every day.”
She claims that she currently does not have the financial means to consider purchasing a Tesla when the time comes for her to acquire a new vehicle.
“Are you going to really align yourself with a company that maybe doesn’t represent your values anymore? At the end of the day, there is a lot of variety to choose from; are you going to do that? It’s not something I could do without feeling uneasy.”