Survey Shows Tesla's Main Enemies Are Elon Musk, Service Centers, and Brand Perception

In 2019, Bloomberg did a survey with Model 3 owners to understand how their experiences with Tesla's first high-volume car were going. At the time, the electric sedan had been on the streets for only around two years and was selling like hotcakes. Five years after the first units were delivered, Bloomberg repeated the survey with the same customers and managed to get 7,000 of them to answer the same questions. Among those that gave up on the brand, the main culprits were Elon Musk, Tesla Service Centers, and brand perception.
Elon Musk is the main reason for Model 3 owners to sell their cars in a Bloomberg survey 7 photos
Photo: Tesla
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Bloomberg mentions it was a "notable minority" who sold their Model 3s and decided never to purchase a Tesla again, but it did not quantify them. It would be interesting to know how many of the former Model 3 owners had given up on their cars, but the focus here is on the reasons why those who switched to other brands did so. The respondents could only pick one main reason for leaving Tesla for good.

Elon Musk was what made 21.5% of these former Tesla customers walk away. Bloomberg reunited a series of free comments about the BEV maker's CEO, and you can see the positive ones, who compare him to Thomas Edison – ironically, an open Nikola Tesla enemy – and call him a "genius, honest, pragmatic, wise" man. Some plainly said they love Musk. It would be interesting if the Bloomberg research were done after the Reuters scoop that discovered the Tesla CEO ordered software developers to present "rosy" range estimates to its customers and created a team to convince them to cancel range complaints.

Those who view Musk in a more negative light did not need the Reuters article to call him "childish," "a dope," "a moron," "idiot human," "a disaster," someone "consumed by his own ego." Some others called him "a destructive force" that has "too much power" because the board "does not do their job to keep him in check." One person said he is overstated because he has nothing to do with the technical aspects of the cars: his role would be restricted to "raising taxpayers' and investors' money." Bloomberg had to redact some comments for "appropriateness."

Elon Musk
Photo: Tesla
It is a pity nobody asked for comments on Tesla Service Centers, but they were the second cause for 18.7% of the customers to sell their Model 3s and never go back. Bloomberg did not explore the situations that led them to have such a negative view of service, but I have covered them so often that anyone reading my articles about those issues must have a fair idea of what these Tesla clients went through.

The third leading cause for customers to give on the BEV maker was being "unhappy with Tesla's brand perception." This must have to do with Musk and also with the advocates that turn every criticism of the company or its products – as valid as they may be – into fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD). Several people have already said they'd buy a Tesla because they liked the vehicles, but not to enter "the club." Being a Tesla fan turned into something negative, which may explain why some owners no longer have a sense of community with these BEVs. Another explanation is that they are now so common that early adopters stopped feeling special.

The other reasons presented by former Tesla customers to give up on the brand were that "cost was too high" (13.1%), "Tesla didn't offer the style of vehicle needed" (10.3%), and that these clients "switched to a gasoline vehicle for convenience" (7.5%). Those with other motives not to buy a Tesla anymore accounted for 11.2%. This was another opportunity to learn more about what makes these customers unhappy. Hopefully, Bloomberg asked them to explain their motivations. It did not disclose anything about them, which leads me to suspect it just accepted the "others" and focused on what was already specified.

Elon Musk Laughs About Environmental Concerns With Giga Gruenheide
Photo: ZDF Frontal 21
For Bloomberg, the main finding from the survey was the negative impact Elon Musk has had on Tesla more recently. While many customers confessed they only bought the company's cars because they liked its CEO, they are now having to face a different scenario in which public opinion is no longer so favorable to Musk. It is right the opposite: some of the Tesla clients heard by Bloomberg want the company to fire him as soon as possible.

As Bloomberg pointed out, that will have an impact on the word-of-mouth sales model Tesla has relied upon until now. Most folks who wanted a Tesla already have one, which leads the company to the same scenario other car companies face every day: they have to convince these car shoppers that their products are the best bang for their buck. Caring for brand perception, improving service, and getting Musk to at least not hurt the company are the clear targets the BEV maker has to address from now on.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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