Has Elon Musk Turned Off Potential Customers on the Left?

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool

Tesla's sales numbers slumped in the first quarter of the year. The company's sales numbers were down about 8 percent compared to last year.

CEO Elon Musk’s electric car company reported it built 433,000 vehicles but delivered only 387,000. That’s down from the 484,507 cars it delivered in the final three months of 2023, and it’s also down from the 422,875 vehicle sales in the first quarter of last year.

Tesla has responded to increased competition by cutting prices. Although Tesla is more profitable than traditional automakers, the price cuts have been squeezing the profit margins that helped boost the stock. Investors’ expectations that the company would grow sales in the future had also been supporting Tesla’s lofty stock price, which made it the world’s most valuable automaker...

Tesla attributed the decline in volumes partially to the production ramp-up of the updated version of Model 3 at its Fremont factory and to factory shutdowns resulting from ships from China to Europe being diverted away from the Red Sea due to attacks there. It also cited a week long closure of its German factory due to an arson attack.


Factory issues, including the arson attack at the German factory, would help explain fewer cars being built but not fewer cars being sold. Instead it looks like Tesla is now succumbing to the slump in EV sales that started impacting other companies last year. Other car companies did report stronger EV sales this quarter, though the number of cars involved is still tiny in most cases.

Kia, based in South Korea, said Tuesday that its sales of electric vehicles in the United States more than doubled in the first three months of the year compared with a year earlier after it introduced a new large sport-utility vehicle, the EV9. Kia’s sister company, Hyundai, said it sold more than 10,000 electric vehicles in the first quarter in the United States, up 75 percent...

Rivian, whose R1 pickup competes with the Cybertruck, said its sales, including of the truck and its two other models, rose 70 percent in the quarter, to 13,600 vehicles.

BYD, the Chinese automaker, also reported much lower sales today of battery powered EVs (i.e. not including hybrids) compared to the last quarter of last year. They once again trail Tesla in BEV sales.

BYD, China's biggest electric vehicle (EV) maker, reported first quarter 2024 sales fell 43% compared to the fourth quarter of 2023, handing back the title of world's biggest EV seller to Tesla after winning it last year.

BYD sold 300,114 EVs in the first quarter of this year, it said in a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange late on Monday, down from a record quarterly high of 526,409 units sold in the previous three-month period, when it surpassed Tesla. BYD's first-quarter sales were up 13.4% from a year ago.


So what's driving this downturn (pun intended). Clearly it's not limited to Tesla, but one possibility that could be driving the Tesla slump specifically is that Elon Musk is now public enemy #2 for most progressives.

Raphaelle Cassens, a Los Angeles resident, gave up her leased Tesla Model Y last year and replaced it with a leased electric BMW i4. Mr. Musk was one reason she switched, she said.

“Honestly, I don’t like him as an individual at all,” said Ms. Cassens, who is a registered Democrat but described herself as nonpartisan.

If you dip into the comments on this article, there's lots of support for that position:

I thought it odd when Musk tweeted just before the last midterm elections that people should vote Republican. 

Why antagonize a large fraction of the market? I would not buy one now because I’ve no interest in helping that man.

Another example:

Should have focused more on making cars better and not just more futuristic.

I will also never buy anything from a company that's run by Musk.

One more:

I'm looking to buy an EV with my next car purchase. I've already crossed off the Tesla.  It's NOT the price. I'm OK with that. What is it then that prevents me from buying a Tesla?  Two words: Elon Musk.

The left has been using its media power to trash Musk since he bought Twitter and, to be fair, he's continued to plow ahead for the most part with statements that are bound to make heads explode. I'm not saying he should stop, but the reality is that this will make some customers, particularly those on the pro-deplatforming left, want to punish and silence him. Maybe that's what's happening now.


Long term, the solution for Tesla is probably to keep moving forward with its lower cost EV, sometimes called the Model 2 though the name and design haven't been revealed yet. Tesla has been working on this for a while but the first sales are still at least a year away. Meanwhile, Tesla is making a pitch to current customers to consider buying its Full Self Driving software. Last week the company started rolling out a free 30-day trial to eligible customers:

Elon Musk may be the focus of the left's 2-minute hate at the moment, but Tesla still make great cars and the FSD software really does seem to be getting pretty good. This clip comes from a guy who has made hundreds of FSD test videos over the past 3 years. In fact his name, Chuck Cook, became synonymous inside and outside the company for a particularly tricky type of unprotected left turn. His most recent drive with the latest software was pretty impressive.

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