Elon Musk is a polarizing figure in the automotive industry. But could the Tesla CEO’s bold personality affect whether consumers buy the brand’s electric vehicles? A new study shows why people purchase Tesla EVs. And the answer might surprise you.
A survey of Tesla EV drivers
A survey from the market research firm Escalent asked EV owners what factored into their decision to buy a new electric vehicle. They were also asked how they viewed Tesla.
What was most important to EV drivers? They viewed build quality, performance, range, styling, and uniqueness as important considerations when purchasing a new electric vehicle.
What’s missing from that list of reasons? Any mention of Elon Musk or the Tesla brand.
Tesla remains a key player in the EV market. The brand’s core values draw new customers and keep existing ones. That’s something other traditional automakers should note, Escalent reports, especially with the volume of new EVs the brand is designing, producing, and marketing in the next 10 years.
In the survey, Escalent also sought to understand what aspects of Tesla turned off consumers. At the top of the list was Musk himself. Drivers and EV owners considered the CEO the biggest reason to avoid purchasing a Tesla vehicle. He ranked above EV driving range, price, build quality, and supercharger availability in turnoffs.
For non-EV owners, Musk followed a vehicle’s driving range and price as reasons for avoiding buying a Tesla.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s social media comments
Elon Musk has been dusting up controversy on social media for a few years. In 2018, he famously tweeted he had built a prototype for a submarine that could help rescue a group of children trapped in a cave in Thailand. A diver who helped rescue the soccer team, Vern Unsworth, dismissed Musk’s tweet as a publicity stunt.
Musk lashed out by calling Unsworth a “pedo guy” (a pedophile). When criticism of Musk’s unsubstantiated claims grew, the Tesla CEO tweeted, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.” Both tweets disappeared the next day.
Musk also made headlines in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. He was unhappy with the government-mandated shelter-in-place orders that March. He refused to close Tesla’s Fremont plant in California. And he claimed Tesla was an “essential business” while other automakers stopped production to protect their workers.
In April 2020, Tesla saw its best-ever first-quarter sales despite the challenges the pandemic presented. Tesla’s stock rose by 17 percent.
But Musk still criticized the federal shelter-in-place orders. And on an earnings call, he spoke crudely and called the U.S. government fascist.
2020’s best-selling EV
The Tesla Model 3 sold around 365,000 units sold worldwide in 2020, making it the most popular plug-in vehicle last year, Statista reports. Model 3 and Model Y deliveries increased by nearly 90 percent year-over-year. The two models accounted for roughly 60 percent of the automaker’s 2020 sales volume.
Though Tesla remained the leading EV maker in 2020, the competition is gaining momentum.
EVs are also becoming more popular. Plug-in EVs, in particular, are catching the consumers’ eyes thanks to developing technologies. With longer driving ranges and a substantially increased charging infrastructure, plug-in models are growing in practicality and accessibility.
Time will tell if Tesla can remain at the top of the EV game.