Tesla Investors Are Worried That Elon Musk’s Work With Twitter Could Hurt Automaker
Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., attends a key delivery ceremony of the company's premium electric sedan Model S vehicles to customers in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Tesla may partner with Toyota Motor Corp. again in the future, Musk said.
Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has devoted much of his energy over the past several weeks to improving Twitter, leading investors behind the electric automaker to express concern about possible reputational harm to the brand.

The billionaire entrepreneur’s $44 billion takeover of the social media company has provoked considerable ire from leftists since his major points of emphasis have rested upon ensuring freedom of expression and nixing efforts to limit the reach of conservative accounts. Musk has also provided copies of emails to third-party journalists revealing former Twitter executives’ efforts to suppress non-leftist speech and remove former President Donald Trump.

As turmoil at the social media company continues to unfold, Future Fund Managing Partner Gary Black, whose company owns $50 million of Tesla stock, said that markets show the Tesla brand “has been negatively impacted by the Twitter drama.” Although electric vehicle buyers were once “proud to drive their Teslas to their friends or show off Teslas in their driveways,” the controversial takeover of Twitter is “hurting Tesla’s brand equity.”

“As Warren Buffett famously said: ‘In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine,’” he added, expressing hope that any damage to the Tesla brand is temporary and suggesting that the company appoint a new interim chief executive. Ross Gerber, a longtime backer of Tesla and the head of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, asked who is running the automaker on a day-to-basis during the “critical time” for the company.

A handful of high-profile left-wing social media users have posted screenshots of their canceled Tesla Cybertruck preorders, informing the company that Musk’s acquisition of Twitter motivated their decisions.

Net favorability of Tesla among Democrats decreased 20.3% between October and November, the time frame of Musk’s Twitter purchase, according to a survey from Morning Consult. On the other hand, net favorability among Republicans increased 5.5% over the same period. SpaceX, the reusable rocket venture that Musk founded with the mission of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars, likewise fell 4.5% in net favorability among Democrats and rose 1% among Republicans.

“For Tesla and SpaceX, the partisan spillover effects could have profound implications,” Morning Consult said. “If the Tesla brand becomes increasingly right-leaning, that could put it out of alignment with core electric vehicle purchasing profiles, which lean more liberal.”

Musk has remarked that he continues to oversee Tesla and SpaceX, where the teams “are so good that often little is needed” from him. The serial entrepreneur said in court last month that he holds no desire to be a chief executive “of any company.” He expects to gradually reduce the time he spends at Twitter and eventually appoint someone else to run the platform.

Musk has made headlines for dismissing two-thirds of employees at Twitter with no apparent impact on the platform’s operations. The move has led to a wave of cost-cutting layoffs throughout the startup and venture capital sectors. “Nature is healing,” Musk said, appearing to reference Silicon Valley’s former environment of scrappy founders stretching every dollar and focusing intently on business outcomes rather than social activism.

Beyond the dismissals, Musk has told remaining workers at Twitter that they should expect “extremely hardcore” working hours if they desire to stay at the company, constituting alignment with the cultures of Tesla and SpaceX. He added that the firm would become “much more engineering-driven,” implying a pivot away from “design and product management” emphases.

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