Tesla is the world’s best-selling EV automaker. Electric cars such as the Model 3 and Model Y are a big success. However, while Tesla vehicles are loved by drivers, it’s a different story for CEO Elon Musk. Over the years, experts wondered if Musk’s divisive antics would hurt sales, but people continued to buy the electric cars in droves. However, Musk’s takeover of Twitter and all of his drama with the social media company proved to be too much. As a result, many Tesla customers have had enough. They are canceling orders and terminating leases due to Musk’s toxic behavior.
Turned off by Musk’s Twitter antics, customers cancel orders and terminate leases of Tesla vehicles
Elon Musk | Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been chaotic — or, to put it more bluntly, a dumpster fire. Along with laying off half the staff, many employees left the social media company due to Musk and his radical changes in policies and caustic management style. This includes removing checks on hate speech, resulting in a proliferation of racist and antisemitic posts on the site.
Also, Twitter has neglected to pay the bills to vendors since the takeover. Furthermore, many employees quit after Musk set an ultimatum demanding that they commit to being “extremely hardcore” and work “long, intense” hours.
On top of that, Musk frequently posts divisive tweets, including ones embracing extreme right-wing causes and attacks on marginalized communities. Plus, he often gets into Twitter arguments with others.
As a result of all this Twitter drama, many customers are canceling Tesla orders and terminating leases. CNET spoke with some of these former customers. For a customer named Heather, the tipping point was Musk’s attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the world-renowned immunologist who has done pivotal work as director of NIAID for nearly four decades.
Logan, another former customer, said that it was “when Musk ordered employees to stop paying Twitter’s bills to vendors for services they’d already rendered.” For Tom, it was Musk’s “corrosive and unstable leadership of Twitter.” Also, in recent months, when customers called to cancel their orders or terminate the leases early — citing Musk’s Twitter drama as the reason, a common refrain from the spokesperson answering the calls was: “We’re hearing a lot of that.”
Musk’s behavior hurts the brand image of Tesla
Elon Musk and Tesla Model Y | Christian Marquardt/Pool via Getty Images
Along with the canceled orders and terminated leases, Musk’s toxic behavior has hurt the brand image of Tesla. Heather, a biotech executive that’s almost at the end of the lease on her Model S, said, “His personality is absolutely tanking the Tesla brand.” She added, “I’m looking forward to having an Elon-free existence.”
Musk’s embrace and sympathies for extreme right-wing causes have also harmed Tesla. Historically, Tesla enthusiasts and customers have leaned progressive — since liberals tend to be passionate about the environmental-friendly qualities of electric cars. With this in mind, the right-wing embrace is especially damaging to the brand.
An example of this is Musk’s “defense of rapper Kanye West’s antisemitic comments disparaging Jews and praising Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.” Also, right-wing extremists spouting hate speech have flourished on Twitter since Musk ordered the site to reduce its moderation of posts. Logan, a Model 3 lessee, said, “I don’t want to support a company or anyone who acts that way.
Furthermore, other Tesla customers that CNET spoke to remained anonymous. The reason for this is they are afraid they would be harassed online — or possibly in real life. Extremist harassers endorse Musk’s divisive behavior and now feel emboldened since his takeover of Twitter.
The concerns of these anonymous customers are justified. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of Trust and Safety, resigned after a seven-year stint at the social media company. For his resignation, Roth cited Musk’s “dictatorial edict.” Following his resignation, Musk attacked Roth in a series of tweets. He also misrepresented his previous academic writing. This led to a great deal of harassment toward Roth, his family, and professors that reviewed his academic work.
Musk’s takeover of Twitter also caused Tesla stock to tank
Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter, and his divisive behavior at the social media company, have also caused Tesla stock to tank. Since the agreement to buy Twitter was finalized on October 27, 2022, Tesla stock has dropped over 50%.
There are other factors that affect Tesla’s valuation and stock price, such as a weakening global economy and issues in China, the automaker’s largest market — as detailed by Axios. However, the Twitter drama is a big factor. Musk selling $40 billion worth of Tesla shares to fund his Twitter buyout had a detrimental effect on Tesla stock as well. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in investors.
While Twitter has been a private company since Musk’s takeover, Tesla is still publicly traded. And Tesla investors are upset by the recent events. Financial analyst firms such as Oppenheimer, Evercore ISI, and Daiwa Capital Markets have downgraded and slashed the price targets of Tesla stock.
Tom is a former Tesla investor and car owner who also placed a deposit for the Starlink satellite internet service from SpaceX, another one of Musk’s companies. He said that he will no longer invest in any of Musk’s companies or buy products from them. Tom previously had a favorable view of Musk and his businesses. However, now, he says that Musk is “the worst troll in my feed.” He added, “If he wants to be CEO of a social media company, he should really focus on that and let this other company go. If he stepped down from Tesla, I would definitely reconsider keeping the car.”
Will Elon Musk step down as CEO of Twitter?
The Twitter drama has also damaged the social media company financially. Advertisers, which are the company’s primary source of revenue, have fled the site.
Perhaps, after realizing the financial damage to Twitter and Tesla, Elon Musk might change course. Recently, he created a poll on Twitter asking users if he should step down as CEO of the company. Over 57% of users responded with “yes” — he should go.
Following the poll, Musk said that he would abide by the results and step down. However, finding a willing and capable CEO replacement might prove to be a difficult task. Either way, the damage is already done with the canceled Tesla orders and terminated leases, as well as the hit to the Tesla brand. Musk might face an uphill battle in returning the EV automaker to its former glory and positive image.