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Sexual Harassment Claim Against Musk And His Criticism By US Democrats Threatens Tesla Brand

Sexual Harassment Claim Against Musk And His Criticism By US Democrats Threatens Tesla Brand
Elon Musk has established a reputation for himself and Tesla by breaching the rules, but the billionaire's latest remarks on politics, as well as a charge of sexual harassment against him that he claims is false, may damage the brand of Tesla and himself as believed by some Tesla customers and employees, according to reports.
Musk refuted a Business Insider report on Thursday that claimed that the entrepreneur had sexually harassed a flight attendant while travelling on a private jet in 2016. Musk called the accuser a liar. 
The day before, in the midst of a heated bid to buy Twitter Inc, Tesla CEO Elon Musk declared that he would now vote Republican rather than Democrat, calling the Democrats a "party of division and hate."
Tesla was also removed from the widely watched S&P 500 ESG Index this week, citing issues such as racial discrimination within the company and crashes linked to its vehicles, according to an index executive. continue reading
Musk responded by calling ESG ratings a "scam" and questioning how the index could eliminate an electric car company while adding oil and gas companies. continue reading
Tesla declined to comment on the matter.
While Musk has created headlines in the past, such as labelling a critic a "pedo man" on Twitter, the new issues raise the question of whether his outspokenness will ruin his popularity.
And, given Musk's ties to Tesla, whether this will damage the company's sales, particularly in California are being debated.
According to Experian data, the left-leaning state is Tesla's largest market, accounting for over 40% of the company's U.S. retail registrations last year. According to the California New Car Dealers Association, Tesla sales in California increased by about 70 per cent last year, accounting for 6.5 per cent of all vehicles sold in the state.
On Friday, the hashtag #BoycottTesla trended on Twitter, and some consumers said they were cancelling their Tesla purchases.
"In the past, I admired him for working to build a green business that's transformational in energy use. But he is sadly becoming divisive as an attention seeking troll and I no longer trust that he is dedicated to the quality of his products. I will cancel my Tesla order," said J Yeh, a Twitter user who describes herself as a lawyer who has lived in several cities including Los Angeles.
"You lost a potential customer," a Twitter user named Ute Bauer from Germany said, adding in German: "To anyone reading this, cancel your orders."
There were no confirmed reports of whether any orders for Tesla were cancelled.
Given the company's great performance, many institutional investors may stick by Musk no matter what, but that doesn't mean some aren't upset.
"They're doing a lot of good things," said Taylor Ogan, CEO of Snow Bull Capital, which owns Tesla shares. "It's just disappointing when that is tainted by Elon Musk's antics. Elon Musk is the best thing for Tesla and the worst thing for Tesla."
One Tesla employee, who did not want to be identified in a Reuters report, expressed displeasure that Musk's outside initiatives looked to be harming the company's stock. "The company needs to do something to address the issue," he said.
Tesla shares fell about 9 per cent on Friday, wiping off roughly $66 billion in market value and bringing the company to its lowest level since August, with analysts blaming "distraction concerns" from the Twitter transaction. On Thursday, Musk assured the public that Tesla was always on his mind. continue reading
If office water cooler conversations centred on Musk's sexual harassment claim rather than Tesla products, the impact might be "corrosive" to the Tesla brand, according to John Smith, a former GM group vice president who oversaw worldwide product planning.
Because technology business employees in California tend to be more liberal, Tesla and SpaceX employees may become "a little bit spooked and upset" as a result of Musk's anti-Democratic party comments, according to Jason Stomel, founder of digital employment consultancy Cadre.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told Reuters on Thursday that Musk's SpaceX has a good team of executives and that the agency's collaboration with the company is "running without a hitch." NASA relies on Musk's SpaceX to carry its astronauts to space.
Musk still has a sizable online following. According to Twitter user @JVega103, he is a Republican who owns a Tesla and recently purchased Tesla solar panels. The user tweeted, "Thanks for everything you do."
Some industry experts wondered if Musk and Tesla would simply brush aside the latest controversy, as they had in the past.
"Is Elon Musk now crazy, or crazy like a fox? He has earned the benefit of the doubt as he is often playing chess when the rest of us are playing checkers," Northwestern University professor Erik Qualman said. "As Musk himself on 'Saturday Night Live' famously stated, 'What, did you think I would be normal?'"

Christopher J. Mitchell

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