May 24, 2023 - Economy

Tesla's reputation slumps as GM, Ford climb

Illustration of the Tesla logo puncturing a tire like a nail

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tesla Motors' brand reputation dipped over the last year as CEO Elon Musk made headlines for a range of controversies, new Axios Harris Poll 100 survey results show.

Why it matters: The world's leading electric vehicle (EV) company is defined by its billionaire CEO, whose messy takeover of Twitter, along with his unfiltered online persona, may have caused collateral damage to other parts of his empire.

The big picture: Tesla ranked 62nd by reputation among the 100 most visible brands, tumbling from 12th last year and 8th in 2021.

  • Toyota was the highest-ranking automaker, at No. 6.
  • Other carmakers whose reputations outshined Tesla were Honda, Subaru, BMW, Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen.

Details: Tesla's image fell across all nine measured attributes, with the biggest declines in the categories of character, trust, culture and ethics.

  • Its reputation for growth also declined substantially — likely a reflection of the fact that consumers now have many more EVs from which to choose.
  • The results are in line with other surveys, such as one from Morning Consult, which found a ripple effect from Musk's polarizing online behavior on his other companies, Tesla and SpaceX.

Yes, but: After recently appointing a new CEO at Twitter, Musk seems to be turning his attention back to Tesla, where competition is intensifying.

  • While Tesla's sales continue to grow, its share of the EV market has been shrinking as new entries from Hyundai, Kia, Ford and VW hit showrooms.

What to watch: Musk seems to recognize the threat and may be looking to burnish Tesla's image.

  • After resisting traditional advertising for years, he told investors at this month's annual shareholder meeting that many people don't know about the affordability of Tesla's cars and their "amazing" features and functionality.
  • "We'll try out a little advertising and see how it goes," he said.

Methodology: The Axios Harris Poll 100 is a trusted ranking of the reputations of companies most on the minds of Americans, with a framework Harris has used since 1999. Read more here.

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