If you look at the Tesla Reddit forum, it’s almost universal: Redditors love their Teslas. People who post there talk about the Tesla brand – the Supercharger network, Smart Summons, accessories and apps, 4680 batteries, adapters, autonomy and other vehicle-specific topics. Sure, a few commenters talk about the health of the company or its stock, but most are dedicated to sharing their insights into Tesla’s catalog and their discoveries of hidden touchscreen lagniaps.
Lately, however, Tesla stories seem to be focusing on the antics of the company’s mercurial CEO Elon Musk. Many former Tesla lovers are dismayed by revelations about his private life and other ways his often outrageous antics are seeping into Tesla’s brand identity.
Why is there such a clear line between enthusiasm for the Tesla brand and outrage at Musk as the head of the world’s leading electric car company?
The answer to this question is complex and subtle.
Early adopters loved not only the Tesla brand, but also CEO Elon Musk. His vision of a sustainable future resonated with a small but powerful segment of the public. They found him to be innovative, curious, knowledgeable, motivated, articulate and funny. Musk introduced us to a massive transportation and social revolution and disrupted the dominance of the internal combustion engine (ICE) as a marker of conformity in the US.
Competitors that have been chasing the company for a decade are likely still years away from catching Tesla in the EV sales rankings.
Eschewing traditional advertising, Musk used social media to showcase a range of Tesla vehicles. Additionally, and often unfortunately, he used public social platforms to gleefully express binary stances on issues, sparking controversy.
His fame brought him over 100 million Twitter followers, many of whom scrutinize his every tweet. He regularly attacked his perceived enemies. Its tonality against other companies creates a signal advance – a type of indicator composed of optimism or pessimism that can drive a company’s valuation. Many institutional investors are frustrated with Musk, but remain behind him due to the company’s overall good performance. His frequent inability to connect with many followers causes anxiety among die-hard fanboys and fangirls.
As Hyperdrive Bloomberg As we recently noted, numerous consumer surveys and market research reports confirm that Tesla has high brand awareness, consideration and loyalty. Customers are mostly pleased with its all-electric cars. However, Musk is a frequent subject of criticism, “synonymous” with the Tesla brand while also being immersed in “touchy political conflicts”. They add that reflecting unflattering coverage of his personal life has threatened the company’s increasingly valuable brand.
Reuters He frames Musk’s influence as making “a name for himself and Tesla by breaking the rules.” Business Insider says Tesla is one of the most divisive companies on Wall Street, with his “unfiltered tweeting” bearing much of the blame. How bad was the hit?
What’s not to love about the Tesla brand?
Tesla owners love its add-ons and Easter eggs (an undocumented hidden feature that developers leave behind for users to discover). The features reflect Musk’s unique sense of humor and have contributed to the admiration of Tesla fans — separate from his social media messages.
Autopilot: The car can steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane.
Biological Weapons Defense Regime: This HEPA filtration system prevents toxic chemicals from entering the vehicle’s cabin (only available on Model S and Model X).
Touch screen: The 17″ screen includes standard functions such as climate control and navigation, but it also offers video games, connectivity, streaming services and up-to-date traffic information in addition to hundreds of other functions.
Watch mode: This feature allows you to keep a close eye on your parked vehicle from anywhere in the world.
Advanced parking sensors: Drivers are signaled when objects may be too close.
Compressor network: There are more than 35,000 fast chargers located on major routes near convenient amenities around the world.
Phone key: Instead of a metal key, Tesla owners can access their vehicles via their phone (there’s also a service key for when the owner wants to give someone else driving privileges).
application: The app allows drivers to control their car from virtually anywhere. It sends real-time updates and allows owners to check the status of their vehicle while charging, control the air conditioning and heating, and lock and unlock the car, among other things.
Wireless Updates: The company is sending new features to the vehicles to make them safer and to offer more functionality to Tesla owners.
Dog Mode: The interior temperature of the car is regulated to prevent the animal from overheating. A message appears on the touch screen to inform unnecessarily concerned passers-by about this feature.
Automatic protection against cabin overheating: The car will automatically cool down if its interior temperature exceeds 105 degrees F.
Frunk: Without the engine taking up space in the front, the trunk allows for additional storage space in the front. It’s a feature that competitors have been quick to copy.
Musk’s comments complicate the company’s disruptive automotive technology
While Musk’s personal views have complicated the appeal of the Tesla brand, his social media posts have also influenced perceptions of the company’s manufacturing capabilities.
An example was the much-anticipated unveiling of the Tesla Model 3, intended for a mass audience. The first customers to drive the mass-market, electric 4-door sedan at a private event were those who helped design and build the car. Considered an inspiring and desirable car, the limited 215-mile range was an acceptable compromise, and die-hard fans debated the finer points of the Model 3 and fretted over delivery dates.
Subsequently, Musk confidently tweeted about the Model 3’s goals.
It looks like we can hit 20,000 Model 3s per month in December
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 3, 2017
The initial production rate of the Model 3 didn’t quite live up to Musk’s promises. Tesla only produced 2,685 Model 3 vehicles in 2017. Musk said the company would produce 500,000 vehicles in 2018, but instead produced 254,530 vehicles.
Then in 2018, the SEC issued a subpoena to Tesla regarding 2 issues:
- Musk’s previous statement that he was considering taking Tesla private;
- certain projections we have made for the rate of Model 3 production during 2017 and other public statements regarding Model 3 production.
It took until 2019 before Tesla was able to reassure shareholders that “we’ve launched, accelerated and stabilized the Model 3,” as Zachary Kirkhorn, Tesla’s chief financial officer, put it.
Final thoughts on the complex influence of the Tesla brand and Musk
The Model Y was launched to great acclaim and more success for the company. Yet Musk continues to confuse the market with his social media messages, lacking filters. He’s the guy who revealed that half his tweets come from the toilet, but he’s also a genius – albeit flawed.
Consumers connect deeply with brands that share their values or represent what they want to be, said Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. CNN. “The intensity of the relationship for those who are really into Tesla is off the charts.”
Like The Washington Post concluded about the Tesla brand: “Disassociation is rife. Love the car, not the tweeter.”
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