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Elon Musk’s Twitter Politics Add to Pressure on Tesla’s Brand Image

Tesla Inc.’s

brand image in the U.S. has fallen in long-running surveys as the world’s largest car maker by market value faces new regulatory challenges and Chief Executive

Elon Musk

wades further into politics in his bid to turn around Twitter Inc.  

Tesla’s reputation remains closely tied to that of Mr. Musk, whose fame has increased with his wealth and political activity. The decline in the perception of the company comes as it is also facing growing competition from rival electric-vehicle makers.

Self-identifying Democrats in particular have soured on the car maker since Mr. Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October, according to data from research firm Morning Consult. Mr. Musk, who plays a large role in the public image of Tesla and now Twitter, on Nov. 7 urged voters to back Republicans in the midterm elections. He later reinstated former President

Donald Trump’s

Twitter account, delivering on his statement in May that he would do so.

Elon Musk has warned of dire financial challenges facing Twitter, the social media company he took over for $44 billion in October. WSJ’s Mark Maurer explains how the company is trying to fix its finances and avoid a potential bankruptcy. Photo Illustration: Laura Kammermann

The car maker’s reputation was already on the decline broadly over the past two years, according to


a U.K.-based market-research company that runs daily surveys about thousands of brands.

On Nov. 7, for the first time since YouGov began tracking Tesla in 2016, more respondents in the U.S. reported a negative perception of Tesla than a positive view. The brand perception has eroded further since, according to YouGov data.

Scores for other major U.S. auto makers have held steady during the same period, with each brand consistently scoring higher than Tesla on net favorability ratings from January 2020 until the present, according to YouGov data. Net favorability is the percentage of respondents with positive perceptions of a brand minus the percentage with negative perceptions.

Tesla didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Morning Consult also found that more people hold a negative view of Tesla than at the start of the year. In surveys of about 200 people in the U.S. each day this month through Nov. 27, roughly 22% had a negative impression of the company, compared with 15% in January. 

Morning Consult said 38% of those surveyed this month through Nov. 27 had a positive impression of Tesla, down from 43% in January.

Morning Consult said a partisan divide is also emerging. 

Tesla’s net favorability among self-described Democrats in the U.S. fell to an average of 10.4% this month through Nov. 27, down from an average of 24.8% in October, according to Morning Consult. It rose to 26.5% from 20% among self-described Republicans during the same period.

“It seems like Tesla is on its way to becoming a partisan brand,” said

Jordan Marlatt,

tech analyst at Morning Consult. 

YouGov found that self-described liberals now view Tesla more negatively than conservatives, though conservatives also have a negative view of the brand on average, according to the firm’s most recent data.

Mr. Musk’s takeover of Twitter has also coincided with deepening economic uncertainty and increased concern about flagging vehicle demand. Tesla executives have waved off such concerns, though the company has cut full-year growth expectations. 

“I can’t emphasize enough, we have excellent demand for Q4, and we expect to sell every car that we make for as far into the future as we can see,” Mr. Musk told analysts in October after Tesla reported nearly $3.3 billion in third-quarter profit

Those who already own a Tesla remain committed to the brand. In the second quarter, the car maker enjoyed the highest brand loyalty among mainstream or luxury car brands in the U.S., S&P Global Mobility data shows. Tesla also has millions of active supporters online, as does Mr. Musk.

But federal prosecutors and securities regulators have launched probes examining whether the car maker misled consumers about how its advanced driver-assistance system known as Autopilot performs, The Wall Street Journal has reported, and a federal auto-safety investigation of the technology is under way.  

More battery-powered vehicles have meanwhile hit the U.S. market, from the electric version of

Ford Motor Co.

’s F-150 to

Hyundai Motor Co.

Ltd.’s Ioniq 5. Tesla’s share of the domestic EV market fell to 61% in the third quarter, from 71% a year earlier according to S&P Global Mobility. 

Tesla’s share price has tumbled around 49% in 2022, outpacing the stock-price declines of automotive rivals and erasing nearly $500 billion in market value. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index, by comparison, has fallen roughly 30% over the same period.

Tesla’s most significant business challenges have been greater competition from other auto makers and declining consumer confidence in the quality of its products, said

Ian Beavis,

chief strategy officer at automotive consulting firm AMCI Global, part of ad-holding company

Omnicom Group Inc.

The number of consumers who had a negative opinion of Tesla’s product quality has grown to 12.5% on Nov. 16 from 4.2% on Nov. 16, 2020, according to YouGov. The majority of respondents in each survey had no opinion.

But Tesla is likely to have trouble distancing itself from its chief executive if he delves further into politics in a way that risks further damaging the brand’s reputation among some U.S. consumers, said

Richard Levick,

chairman and chief executive of public-relations firm Levick.

More than 94% of U.S. adults are now familiar with Mr. Musk, up from about 75% one year ago, according to Mr. Marlatt of Morning Consult.

“It’s very, very hard to separate the company from the man,” Mr. Levick said. “He has a lot more critics than he used to.”

Write to Patrick Coffee at and Rebecca Elliott at

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