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Which Will Prevail: Musk’s Social Media Controversies Or Musk’s Machine Focus & Innovation?

Despite Tesla’s continued sales performance, controversies that swirl around Musk have tainted the allure of the all-electric car company for many current and likely future owners of Tesla cars and trucks.

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He’s been called “belligerent.” He’s been accused of treating people like collateral damage instead of human beings, of becoming “unhinged.” He’s self-described as “the Chief Twit.” He’s Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, and he’s been the target of a whole lot of criticism since his 2022 purchase of Twitter. It forces one to wonder, which will prevail: Musk’s social media controversies or the cleantech machines he has been bringing to the mass marketplace, the ones that have inspired automakers everywhere to transition to all-electric transportation? Which will be bigger in the near-future and lasting image of who Musk is?

Elon Musk is a man who dreams big. He was Fortune’s 2020 Business Person of the Year. He’s been a member of The Giving Pledge since 2012 — that promise some of the mega-wealthy have made to donate the majority of their fortunes to justice goals that are urgent and worth advancing. He’s brought a vision of what a sustainable future can look like through the various companies he has founded and led, demonstrating perhaps better than anyone the potential to take vigorous environmental action and make it profitable.

Tesla has long dominated US EV sales and continues to be strong and adaptable, according to Musk, even in light of global supply chain and inflationary pressures. During the 2022 Q3 investors call, he affirmed, “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,” Musk said. “The factories are running at full speed, and we’re delivering every car we make and keeping operating margins strong.”

While Tesla’s lead in the EV market continues to be robust, the company’s share of new US EV sales dipped to 64% in the third quarter, from 75% in the same period a year earlier. Cox Automotive interjects, though, that such a drop is relative, as “a declining share was a foregone conclusion for Tesla as more players hopped into the EV segment.” Of continued significance was Tesla’s ability to hold onto the top spot in the luxury market, outselling #2 Mercedes (all powertrains) by a large margin.

Despite Tesla’s continued sales performance, controversies that swirl around Musk have tainted the allure of the all-electric car company for many current and likely future owners of Tesla cars and trucks. A lot of the consumer angst has to do with Musk’s social media messaging.

Musk’s tweets have often spurred great controversy. There was the “funding secured” faux pas. His accusatory “pedo guy” comment during the Thai soccer team cave rescue attempt is hard to forget. He sparred about the existential plight of Ukraine with its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and ended up walking back his original argument, acquiescing to Ukraine’s right to independence.

Then again, Musk’s influence and direction in companies like Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company are changing the way technology enters 21st century everyday life. At one point, it seemed as if Tesla’s stability across multiple industries would always reinforce its brand association. Then clamor around imperfect Full Self Driving (FSD) fired up Musk’s detractors, and for some, so has his intransigence about V2G applications for the Tesla catalog.

His brilliance is often overshadowed by his nature. Spontaneous and impetuous, capricious and mercurial, Musk poses a conundrum to many observers. Controversial tweeter Musk or machine-head Musk: which will win out at a time when his public statements continue to be convoluted and confusing? When will his Twitter feed return to discussions of battery electric cars and trucks?

The Ongoing Speculation about Tesla’s Valuation

Without traditional print ads, Tesla has branded an image of fully electric transportation that’s available today — not some time in the future. CleanTechnica readers and writers have enjoyed exploring the tech, growth, and innovation of Tesla and Musk’s role in that evolution. He is a formidable influence on the valuation of Tesla stock, though.

It is Musk’s mindset — a complicated combination of genius and intransigence, of intricate analytical capacity alongside fierce competitiveness — that both moves and baffles the markets.

Although many have questioned the valuation of Tesla’s stock in the face of the current bear market, some investors have grabbed onto the opportunity to buy the company’s shares at what they see as low prices.

One analyst sees Tesla’s future as quite bright, in fact.

Citi Research analyst Itay Michaeli upgraded Tesla’s stock from a Sell to a Hold rating in recent weeks. It’s an notable shift for Tesla, as its stock has fallen from an April high of over $350 per share to a December low of under $200. That fluctuation has caused the company’s market capitalization to drop by over $400 billion. Michaeli assessed the rising EV marketplace in relation to Tesla’s long-term position and stability across the past decade. However, Michaeli cautions investors that the competition will challenge Tesla, although he expects the all-electric car company is poised to handle it.

Other analysts, such as Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, question if Tesla’s stock shows that a “value opportunity is emerging,” even as the company approaches the firm’s bear market case. “Tesla is approaching our $150 [per share] bear case, driven by price cuts in China, decelerating EV demand, and other market currents,” wrote Jonas in a report.

Jonas retained his Tesla price target of $330 per share, while Michaeli raised his price target to $176 from $141.33.

The rumored $3,750 incentive to customers to take delivery of a Model 3 or Model Y before the end of 2022 — a $3,750 price adjustment — may be one of the turning points toward that higher valuation. [Editor’s note: I just talked to a guy in a parking lot who just traded in his Model 3 for a Model Y because he was offered that $3,750 discount via email. — Zach]

Final Thoughts

Trucking has long been the preferred method of transporting freight within the US, and Tesla was perfectly placed to innovate this sector. Elon Musk kicked off deliveries of the company’s first few production Semi trucks on Thursday. Always the disrupter, Tesla revealed the battery-powered vehicle has up to a 500-mile range. It is the first semi designed from the start to be electric. Tesla set up the Semi with the steering wheel in the center of the cab with touchscreens positioned on both sides of the driver. Usually, the steering wheel is situated according to its intended geographic region, with left or right side orientation.

Musk glanced up to a slide during the Tesla Semi reveal and announced, “It’s a beast.” He explained, “If you’re a truck driver and you want the most bad-ass rig on the road, this is it.”

The Semi uses 3 electric motors that are based on the ones in the Plaid-spec Model S and Model X. One will be used for steady-speed driving on the highway to obtain maximum efficiency, while the other two motors engage when maximum torque is required to accelerate or maintain speed while driving uphill.

The Semi could be a turning point in what has been a disappointing year for Tesla.

“I have too much work on my plate, that’s for sure,” Musk conceded earlier this month during a video appearance at a conference in Indonesia. “I’m really working at the absolute most amount that I can work from morning until night, seven days a week. So this is not something I’d recommend, frankly.”

Musk or the machine

Photo by Carolyn Fortuna | CleanTechnica.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a Model Y as well as a Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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