Tesla is undoubtedly the market leader in electric cars globally, and the brand itself is fiercely entwined with its enigmatic and entrepreneurial CEO, Elon Musk.
But while it may be easy to assume that it is Musk himself, or “brand tribalism” that drives people to choose Tesla electric vehicles over other brands, this is apparently not the case.
A new survey from human behaviour research firm Escalent asked EV shoppers what lay behind their buying decisions, and the results revealed it is the cars themselves, not Musk or the Tesla brand, that people love.
“Notably absent? Love for the Tesla brand itself or Elon Musk,” writes report automotive and mobility market researcher Mike Dovorany.
Instead, it is the different and new approach Tesla has taken in designing its range of electric cars, as well as the focus on driving range, performance and acceleration that draws drivers to Tesla cars, the survey says.
It makes sense really. Why buy something just because you like the CEO of a company, what they say or how many followers they have on social media?
It’s fair to say that the brand itself depends on the products the company makes, too.
Dovorany says the results of the survey are a warning shot for legacy carmakers.
“The core attributes of Tesla’s product lineup continue to draw people in—something the old guard of automotive manufacturing should keep in mind when designing, building and marketing the enormous wave of EVs slated to hit dealer lots over the next decade.” he writes.
“While traditional automakers have been looking for the solution to the EV puzzle, it’s been right under their noses all along. They don’t need to find ways to replicate Tesla’s “secret sauce” or the “Elon Effect”—they just need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to making great electric vehicles with the features shoppers want.”
This is an interesting comment considering the new strategy that Volkswagen, intent on claiming a significant piece of the EV pie, appears to be undertaking.
Volkswagen group CEO Herbert Diess joined Twitter in December 2020, promptly challenging Tesla with a new electric vehicle project codenamed Trinity which Volkswagen has subsequently teased via a strategy designed to gain traction on social media channels.
These moves have prompted media from several quarters to observe Volkswagen’s apparent attempt at cultivating a social media presence akin to Tesla’s Musk.
But as Escalant’s survey would seem to indicate – and as Volkswagen itself has more or less acknowledged in its three-pronged plan to catch up to Tesla on innovative software, manufacturing and supply, even after it launched its new electric ID series – it will have to make an electric vehicle that inspires if it is to succeed.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.