The Musk mask slips

| 17th July 2020
tesla public opinion
Photo by Chad Russell from Pexels
Elon Musk attacked state shutdowns and opened his factory without health-official approval. Will that impact Tesla?

He may be the company's CEO, but when it comes to purchasing, it appears people separate their opinion of Musk from their interest in the products he sells.

Elon Musk is known for making controversial statements, including sharing his frustration over California's stay-at-home order in an all-caps message.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the standing of many large technology corporations, though the long-term effects of their brand reputation management are yet to be seen. 

While consumers may disagree with Musk's comments regarding the pandemic and economic shutdown, it is unlikely to damage Tesla's sales.

Brand

This is not the first time Musk has made a controversial statement, and by expressing his feelings, he may garner the support of consumers who are equally frustrated by the shutdown. 

Sustainably minded corporations and renewable energy investors are also likely to see an increase in sales during and after the pandemic, due to a boost in consumer support of more low-carbon solutions, as pollution is linked to causing as many as 10,000 deaths a year.

Renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, should enjoy higher sales as companies and consumers seek more resilient infrastructure. Tesla's investment in solar energy has expanded brand awareness and built a reputation separate from Musk. 

Musk is a controversial figure, and his opinions may affect how consumers perceive Tesla. However, this is unlikely to affect sales. He may be the company's CEO, but when it comes to purchasing, it appears people separate their opinion of Musk from their interest in the products he sells. 

Musk is well-known for non-traditional advertising. Tesla, as a company, never engaged in traditional advertising, learning toward brand journalism to raise awareness. This approach has made Musk as much a part of the brand as the car itself, turning him into a walking and tweeting advertisement.

Sales

From the beginning, Musk has been a demanding presence in the innovative technology sector. Tesla has raised controversy in recent years on several fronts.

Complaints of worker treatment have plagued Tesla's reputation, with employees condemning Musk's impossible standards and complaining of unsafe working conditions despite the factory's futuristic operations. 

Complaints regarding union activity have also called into question Tesla's values, especially regarding its physical laborers. In 2019, a case ruled that Tesla and Musk broke federal labor laws by targeting union activity. However, these reports are yet to affect the company's sales.

The economic shutdown and subsequent recession affected Tesla's manufacturing operations temporarily, slowing sales and upsetting Musk.

His inflammatory tweets regarding his feelings on the closure, and subsequent decision to reopen the factory without the approval of local health officials, have called into question whether Musk's reputation will affect sales. 

Swayed

The public's opinion on Musk is definitely mixed, and consumer feelings toward him have varied for years. This is not the first controversy the sustainable tech executive has faced, and will most likely not be the last. 

Threatening to move his factory out of California and his statement downplaying the virus's gravity may be a test run for how brand reputation truly impacts a consumer's choices.

Companies like Facebook and Amazon, who experienced "tech lash" before the pandemic, are currently working hard to rebuild consumer trust. Whether or not people will change their buying habits based on criticism of the company's CEO's remains to be seen.

Regardless of public opinion regarding Elon Musk and his comments on COVID-19, Tesla will most likely thrive during and after the pandemic. As of June 2020, Tesla ousted Toyota and Honda as the top-selling car in California

The pandemic has brought attention to the human impact on the environment and the immediate need to create more sustainable systems to combat climate change.

Sustainably orientated companies, such as Tesla, will most likely see a boost despite the economic recession, as consumers choose to support eco-conscious corporations. Despite Musk's controversial comments, investment in Tesla is unlikely to be swayed.

This Author

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

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