Axios What's Next

Newsletter branding image

Tesla has slipped to 63rd place in brand reputation in the 2024 Axios Harris Poll 100, Joann reports today — down from 8th in 2021.

Today's newsletter is 1,002 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Tesla's reputation slumps

Step chart showing Tesla's reputation ranking in the Axios/Harris 100 Poll from 2019 to 2024. In 2019 Tesla was ranked #42. They peaked at #8 in 2021 before falling in 2023 to 62 and now sit at #63.
Data: Axios Harris Poll 100; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tesla Motors' brand reputation continued to slip over the last year as Elon Musk's antics and other issues tarnished its once-impeccable image, according to new Axios Harris Poll 100 survey results.

Why it matters: Tesla soared to 8th place in 2021's ranking of America's 100 most visible companies by their perceived image, but has since plummeted to 63rd — suggesting Musk and his company flew too high and too fast, like Icarus of Greek myth.

Zoom in: In the 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.

Context: Tesla's reputation has slid behind those of other conventional automakers.

  • Honda (7th), Toyota (12th), Subaru (15th), General Motors (40th) and Ford (55th) now all rank higher than Tesla (63rd).
  • Only Volkswagen (69th) ranks lower.
A table showing the top Automotive companies in the 2024 Axios Harris 100 Poll.
Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: 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."

Between the lines: At many 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.

What's next: Tesla faces an array of business and legal challenges that will continue threatening its reputation.

  • It's under increasing pressure from competitors, especially up-and-coming Chinese EV makers.
  • In response, Tesla is slashing car prices and cutting 10% of its workforce, even while the UAW mounts a union organizing drive.
  • 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 been plagued by quality issues, including steering and suspension failures.

Reality check: Tesla still has by far the most loyal buyers of any automaker, according to S&P Global Mobility.

  • Nearly 70% of Tesla-owning households looking to buy a car in the first quarter of 2024 purchased another Tesla, per S&P.
  • Most other brands have a loyalty rate of around 50%.

The bottom line: For some buyers, it's about the car — not the company or its CEO.

Go deeper: Read the full methodology behind the Axios Harris Poll 100.

2. Newest version of ChatGPT could accelerate chatbot care

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The latest iteration of OpenAI's ChatGPT, with its sharper real-time voice interactions, may mark a turning point in how people use chatbots for health care.

Why it matters: Doctors say the new model's humanlike qualities could make patients more comfortable asking ChatGPT for health care advice (for better or worse).

Catch up quick: OpenAI is rolling out GPT-4o, an updated version of its flagship model that can read facial expressions and understand voice or text commands, even when interrupted.

  • It's not hard to imagine how this kind of interactive tool could be used in treating patients, said Robert Pearl, a Stanford University professor and author of the book "ChatGPT, MD."
  • "This is making it possible for you to have conversations identical to what you'd have with your closest friends, to what you'd have with your physician," Pearl told Axios.

Yes, but: Surveys show that patients are wary of doctors relying on AI to treat them, and doctors are less than thrilled about the possibility of being supplanted.

  • Providers told Axios they're worried that patients will put too much confidence in the chatbot's capabilities.
  • Or they may see these tools as an acceptable alternative to visiting a doctor — particularly if they're scared of seeing one or concerned about the cost.

The bottom line: "People already go to Dr. Google," said Sarah Oreck, a psychiatrist and CEO of Mavida Health. "I fear that will become even more robust."

Read the full story.

3. Louisiana set to become 1st state requiring 10 Commandments to be posted in schools

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Louisiana is poised to become the first state requiring display of the Ten Commandments at all schools that receive public funding, including colleges and universities.

The big picture: Lawmakers in other states, like Texas, South Carolina and Utah, have recently attempted similar legislation, but none has yet passed any as stringent as Louisiana appears poised to approve.

Driving the news: The Louisiana bill, HB71, requires the text of the Ten Commandments to be printed on a poster no smaller than 11 by 14 inches, and the commandments' words must be "the central focus."

  • The bill's author is Rep. Dodie Horton, whose 2023 bill requiring the words "In God We Trust" be posted in every classroom also became law.

The other side: A group of civil rights organizations, including the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, issued a joint statement opposing the legislation.

Flashback: The U.S. Supreme Court found a similar Ten Commandments measure in Kentucky unconstitutional in a 1980 ruling.

Read the full story.

4. Wanted: More veterinarians

Map showing percentage change in the number of veterinary establishments by state between 2012 and 2021. Overall, the number of veterinary establishments increased by 8.4% over this period. D.C. had the highest increase with 50% more establishments while Vermont had the largest decrease at -9%.
Data: Census Bureau; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Despite an increase in new veterinary clinics, there's still an ongoing vet shortage.

The big picture: The pandemic pet adoption boom aggravated the shortage, which has contributed to provider burnout and shelter overcrowding.

By the numbers: The number of vet establishments across the country has gone up 8.4% since 2012, according to 2021 census data, the most recent available.

Yes, but: Many more vets are probably still needed to meet demand.

  • As of 2022, there were about 86 million dogs and 66 million cats in the U.S., an annual increase of about 2% a year since 2016, according to a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association, Mark Rosati.
  • Now 2 in 3 households own a pet, per American Pet Products Association data.

What we're watching: Veterinary schools are increasing class capacity, and a number of new vet schools are in development, Rosati says.

Read the full story.

A hearty thanks to Amy Stern, our What's Next copy editor — may your EV road trips be filled with brightly-lit charging stations.

Was this email forwarded to you? Get your daily dose of What's Next by signing up here for our free newsletter.