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Electric Vehicles

EV Buyers Still Love Tesla, Whatever Elon Musk Does

In the latest Heatmap Climate Poll, 35% of future EV buyers said the billionaire had actually made them more likely to purchase a Tesla.

Elon Musk.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

In the weeks leading up to Elon Musk’s latest round of controversies, 27% percent of Americans who reported wanting to buy an EV in the future said that the billionaire’s behavior made them less likely to pick a Tesla, down from 36% who said the same in February. On the other hand, 35% of prospective EV buyers said that Musk had made them more likely to purchase a Tesla — a reversal of the results from the last time Heatmaptook Americans’ temperature on the controversial CEO, when more people were put off by Musk’s behavior than swayed by him.

Heatmap’s new poll — which was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group between Nov. 6 and Nov. 13, 2023 — notably did not account for Musk’s latest scandal: reinstating Infowars founder and Newtown massacre denialist Alex Jones to the website formerly known as Twitter. The poll was also conducted days before Musk endorsed an anti-semitic post on X, leading to an advertiser exodus from the platform.

Still, since the last Heatmap poll in February, Americans have had plenty of time to see other negative headlines about Musk, including around his volatile ownership of X, his “outsize role in geopolitics, thanks to SpaceX,” his mockery of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and his public attacks on a disabled ex-employee, George Soros, and the Anti-Defamation League.

Even so, Tesla outsold its next 19 rival EV automakers combined, and by a wide margin, in the first six months of 2023, Reuters reports. And despite declining earnings, its shares have risen 94% so far this year, far outpacing the S&P 500. When trying to account for this resilience in the face of Musk’s parade of recent scandals, Platformer’s Casey Newton mused last week on The New York TimesHard Fork podcast that there might still be “a contingent of folks who want to believe that the Elon Musk of 2023 is the Elon Musk of 2013, and that he said a couple of kooky things here and there, but at his core, he’s billionaire genius, Tony Stark, savior of humanity.” But at the same time, he went on, this might be a “moment in the sun for Tesla” and “maybe a few years from now, we look back and we think, oh yeah, that’s when the wheels started to come off the wagon.”

Overall, Heatmap found that some 39% of Democrats and left-leaning Independents said Musk has made them less likely to look at a Tesla, a small drop from 44% who said the same in February. Only 17% of Republicans and right-leaning Independents said the same. Of all respondents surveyed, though, a plurality (46%) said Musk ultimately has “no impact” on their decision to buy or lease a Tesla, proving there apparently are some people lucky enough to not have to think about this guy.

Additionally, 35% of men but only 15% of women said that Musk has made them more likely to buy a Tesla. Make of that what you will!

The Heatmap Climate Poll of 1,000 American adults was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group via online panels from Nov. 6 to 13, 2023. The survey included interviews with Americans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. You can read about our results here.

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City. Read More

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