Elon Musk and Tesla are technically separate entities but to say that they’re closely linked is an understatement. Now, after many years of fending off negative press despite some unconventional behavior, it seems that Musk’s actions might be negatively impacting his electric car company. New data as well as some customer comments seem to back that up.
“If you think about the halo of Musk and the halo of Tesla, they definitely intersect,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, an agency that studies brand intimacy, the emotional connection between consumers and companies. No company scored as well as Tesla did in the agency’s 2022 study.
Natarelli doesn’t think that it’ll hold on for 2023 though. A combination of factors including Tesla’s largely liberal following and Musk’s right-leaning actions play a role. His openness on Twitter does too. If you thought that Tesla was polarizing before, it’s only getting more extreme.
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“This is creating real damage for the Tesla brand,” Natarelli told Automotive News. “When I see people commenting that they are no longer considering a Tesla car or are embarrassed to drive it, I think that’s reaching the point of significant equity damage for the brand. When we run our study for 2023, we’re going to see that represented.”
Beyond the hard data highlighted in the study, a recent report from Insider leans into anecdotal individual experiences. To put it lightly, they’re not great and they lend credence to the idea that Tesla customers are losing their connection to the brand.
Multiple Tesla customers are quoted in the piece. “It’s almost like he’s abandoned us in favor of his new mission,” one who had recently dumped their Tesla shares said. “It’s been so unnecessary,” another is quoted as saying “You’ve got a great car company — just stop it.”
Going back to the perspective of MBLM, “The space between Tesla and its competitors has shrunk,” Natarelli said. “The last thing you need is [Musk] making it harder.” And there’s no doubt that even if Tesla had a CEO that perfectly aligns with the vast majority of its target audience, the war over EV market share is only just beginning.
Tesla is still in a very dominant position for a variety of factors and it’ll likely stay that way for a while as other rivals try to ramp up production. The X-factor in all of this seems to be whether or not Musk and his team at Tesla can stay focused enough on scaling customer demand and production to keep their lead.