Dennis Levitt got his first Tesla, a blue Model S, in 2013, and loved it. It had been so superior to any car Ive ever driven, the 73-year-old self-storage company executive says.
He bought in to the brand along with Elon Musk, Tesla Inc.s charismatic ceo, purchasing another Model S the next year and driving the initial one in the united states. In 2016, hestood in lineat a showroom near his suburban LA home to be among the first to order two Model 3sone for himself, another for his wife.
I was a complete Musk fanboy, Levitt says.
Was, because while Levitt still loves his Teslas, hes soured on Musk. As time passes, his public statements have really arrived at bother me, Levitt said, citing the CEOsspatswith U.S. President Joe Biden, amongst others. He acts just like a 7-year-old.
Before it had been reported Muskhad an affairwith Sergey Brins wife, which hesdenied; before hisslipshoddeal, thenno-deal, to obtain Twitter Inc.; prior to the revelation hefathered twinshaving an executive at his brain-interface startupNeuralink; before SpaceXfired employeeswho called him a frequent way to obtain distraction and embarrassment; before his daughterchanged her nameand legal gender after his history of mocking pronouns; before articles said SpaceXpaid a worker $250,000 to stay a claim hesexually harassedher, allegations hes calleduntrue; Musks behavior was postponing potential customers and perturbing some Tesla owners.
The trends show up in a single consumer survey and general market trends report after another: Tesla commands highbrand awareness,consideration andloyalty, and customers are mostlydelightedby its cars. Musks antics, however? They might do without.
Creative Strategies, a California-based customer-experience measurer, mentioned owner frustration with Musk in astudyit published in April. Per year earlier, research firm Escalent found Musk was themost negative aspectof the Tesla brand among electric-vehicle owners surveyed.
We hear from Tesla owners who’ll say, Look, I really like my vehicle, but I must say i wish I didnt need to react to my relatives and buddies about his latest tweet, says Mike Dovorany, who spoke with thousandsof EV owners and audience during his 2 yrs working inEscalents automotive and mobility group.
Tesla has up to now had no trouble growing its way through Musks many controversies. Thedipin vehicle deliveries the business reported last quarter was its first sequential decline since early 2020 and largely revolved around Covid lockdowns in Shanghai forcingits most productive factory to shut for weeks. Competitors which have been chasing the business for ten years may still beyears from catching up in the EV sales ranks.
Musks star power, built-in no small part by his activity on Twitterthe same forum where hes become this type of lightning rodhas contributed immensely to Tesla, especially since itsshunnedtraditional advertising. His steady blast of online banter, punctuated with the casual grandiose announcement or stunt (see:shooting a Roadster into space) keeps Tesla inthe headlines. Through the companys earlierdays, the trolling and glib comments were an attribute, not just a bug. They allowed Musk to shape mediacoverage and made him the ringleader for Teslas legionof very-online fans.
But after making Tesla and himself so synonymous collectively, Musk has waded intopolitical conflicts, attemptedto buy among the worlds most influential social media marketing platforms and struggled to batback unflattering coverage of his personal life, putting the companysincreasingly valuable brandat an increased risk.
Jerry James Stone, a 48-year-old chef in Sacramento, California, who teaches his 219,000YouTube channelsubscribers steps to make vegan and vegetarian meals, drives a Volkswagen Beetle convertible, and plans to go electric along with his next car. He isnt sure yet which model, but certainit wont be considered a Tesla.
Elon has just soiled that brand for me personally so much that I dont even think I’d take one easily won one, Stone says. You have he whos the richest dude on the planet, who has this huge megaphone, and he uses it tocall somebody a pedophilewhos not, or even tofat-shame people, each one of these things that are simply sort of gross.
In accordance with Strategic Vision, a US research firm that consults auto companies, some 39% of car buyers say they wouldnt look at a Tesla. Thats definitely not out from the ordinaryalmost 1 / 2 of respondents say they wont consider German luxury brands. But Tesla does lag more mass-market brands:Toyota, for instance, is off the grocery list for 23% of drivers.
Emma Sirr, a 28-year-old worker in cloud computing who lives in Bozeman, Montana, gets around with her partner and their two dogs in a 2004 Nissan Frontier. Theyve been researching EVs for approximately 3 years anduntil recentlyconsidered Teslas the only real viable option, given their range and thecharging infrastructurethe business has built within their area. However they refused to get one due to Musk, their main gripes beinghis politics,staff turnoverat the business, and its owncavalier approachto autonomous-driving technology.
We took Tesla off the table from the get-go, Sirr says. She and her partner have their eyes on the Kia Niro and Chevrolet Bolt as you possibly can alternatives. As consumers, our power is what we buy. I believe younger generations specifically vote making use of their wallets, and Personally i think like this might get back to bite.
For a lot of days gone by decade, Tesla lacked competitors that matched its models battery range along with other measures of performance. Consumers defer by Musks mischief had few EVs to show to. As legacy automakers introducemore capable electric models,Tesla wont have just as much leeway.
Weve seen on the list of early adopters more of a willingness to take chances or to endure items that are unusual, says Dovorany, who left Escalent for an automotive techstartup earlier this season. Were not since just as much with incoming buyers.To win this cohort, automakers have to check every box,andfor some, which includes having a CEO who doesntshare Hilter memeson social media marketing.
Levitt, the self-described former Musk fanboy, took a test ride last month in a Lucid. He wasnt in love with it, partly he says since it didnt have sufficient cargo space for his golf gear. Hes still looking forward to another automaker to steal him from Tesla and consideringmodels from Audi, Mercedes, and BMW.
Invest the Mr. Musk and his antics from the equation, Im about 98% sure that my next car will be a Tesla, Levitt says.His antics put me in play.
Join theFortune Features email list and that means you dont miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews, and investigations.