Tesla’s Brand Image Continues To Slide But Owners Stay Loyal

Tesla Motors is in the hot seat again. Its brand reputation continued to fall over the past year as Elon Musk’s antics and other issues tarnished its once-spotless image, according to new Axios Harris Poll 100 survey results.

Tesla rose to 8th place in 2021’s ranking of America’s 100 most visible companies by their perceived image but has since gone into free-fall, dropping to 63rd — suggesting Musk and his company flew too high and too fast.

In the latest 2024 Axios Harris Poll 100, Tesla ranks in the 70s or below on attributes like character, trust, and ethics. It ranks higher on factors like growth (48th), vision (34th), and products & services (32nd). But those rankings are far below its standing just three years ago, when Tesla ranked in the top 10 on all three factors.

What this means is that Tesla’s reputation has slid behind those of other conventional automakers. If we check the rankings of the more established carmakers, we see that Honda is in 7th, Toyota is 12th, Subaru 15th, General Motors 40th, and Ford 55th now all rank higher than Tesla which languishes in 63rd—only Volkswagen in 69th ranks lower.

Tesla has long been defined by its billionaire CEO, who captivated consumers and investors with his vision to promote stylish, high-performance electric cars as a way to tackle climate change. But his messy takeover of Twitter and increasingly controversial political rants on the platform — now called X — have alienated some former fans. Some Tesla owners have put bumper stickers on their cars declaring, “I bought this before Elon went crazy.” 

At most large companies, communications specialists are available to smooth over the boss’s miscues. But Musk famously dismantled Tesla’s public relations department a few years ago, and now handles his own PR via X.

Tesla faces various business and legal challenges that will continue to threaten its reputation. It’s under increasing pressure from competitors, especially up-and-coming Chinese EV makers. Meanwhile, federal safety regulators say Tesla’s Autopilot assisted-driving technology was responsible for 467 crashes and 14 deaths over about 15 months during 2022-23. Tesla cars have also been plagued with quality issues, including steering and suspension failures.

CARLIST THOUGHTS

On the flip side, however, Tesla still has by far the most loyal buyers of any automaker, according to S&P Global Mobility. Nearly 70% of Tesla-owners looking to buy a car in the first quarter of 2024 purchased another Tesla, says S&P. Most other brands have a loyalty rating of around 50%. For many buyers, it seems to be more about the car — and not the CEO. Thanks for the small mercies.

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