“There was this kind of aura around Elon Musk that he could do no wrong,” said Taylor Ogan, a hedge fund manager and YouTube presence who has owned three Teslas. “That has finally caught up with him.”
Joya Banerjee, a lead adviser focused on gender-based violence at the humanitarian organization CARE in Washington, looked at a Tesla when she was shopping for an electric vehicle last year. But even before Mr. Musk bought Twitter, she was put off by what she perceived as his ego, sexism and excessive power.
“I couldn’t see my money going to his C.E.O. salary,” she said. Ms. Banerjee bought a Ford Mustang Mach-E instead.
Kenneth Holecko, a retired government human relations manager who lives in Virginia and owns a Tesla, said Mr. Musk’s statements about Dr. Fauci and other topics added to concerns he had about the company’s credibility on matters like safety of its autonomous driving software. “I’m not going to go out and sell my Tesla because of what’s going on with Twitter,” Mr. Holecko said, “but I would never buy another Tesla.”
Survey data indicate that Mr. Musk’s behavior has hurt Tesla’s brand among liberals, the group most likely to buy electric cars. Tesla’s net favorability rating — the number of people who view the company positively minus those with a negative view — plummeted to 10 percentage points in November from 31 percentage points at the beginning of the year, according to Morning Consult, a research firm.
Tesla’s net favorability rating among Republicans has improved slightly, to 27 percentage points in November from 21 percentage points in August, as Mr. Musk adopted some conservative talking points, according to the firm’s research. But there are unlikely to be enough new Republican Tesla fans to compensate for disaffected Democrats, said Jordan Marlatt, an analyst at Morning Consult.
“Increasingly, Tesla is becoming a pretty partisan brand and that could have pretty serious implications for Tesla in the future,” Mr. Marlatt said.