A Rivian charging at an EV charging station. The company is poised to benefit from Elon Musk’s latest fallout, industry watchers and customers say. Getty/Patrick T. Fallon
Elon Musk appeared to boost a post last week that expressed anti-semitic sentiments.
Some Tesla owners said they’d ditch his car company in favor of Rivian as a result.
Musk and Tesla have survived similar controversies in the past.
As Tesla CEO Elon Musk once again courts controversy on his social media platform X, rival EV startup Rivian stands to gain from the fallout.
After Musk appeared to agree with an anti-semitic post on X, formerly Twitter, last week, Tesla investor Ross Gerber (and longtime supporter of Musk and Tesla) said he was turning in his Model Y for a Rivian.
Business Insider spoke with several other Tesla owners, investors, and other company boosters who said the anti-semitic rhetoric was their last straw for the company. Many said they were realigning with Rivian, an EV startup that has built its brand around making EVs for adventure-seeking lovers of nature.
“The best part of the Rivian is I have no internal conflict,” Robert Kuhn, who owns a Tesla Model 3 and a Rivian R1S, told Business Insider via email. “The company’s mission statement and, importantly, the CEO’s world view, are much more aligned with mine.”
Kuhn, who bought his Model 3 in 2019 and said he was always eager to show it off to friends and family, expressed exasperation with Musk’s increasingly polarizing views.
“I feel conflicted every time I get into” my Tesla, Kuhn said. “I’ve googled ‘love Tesla, hate Musk’ numerous times as if I’m searching for like-minded individuals who might help me cope with my conflict.”
The opportunity for Rivian to woo Tesla acolytes is an about-face from where the startup stood at the beginning of the year, when investors and analysts were quick to criticize Rivian for alienating early adopters and superfans.
As the company has worked through early production challenges, problems with quality, deliveries, and long-delayed orders created some friction between the startup and its biggest boosters. Critics compared that to Tesla’s days of “production hell,” when the company still managed to take care of its most fanatic supporters.
As Rivian appears to work through these early kinks, upping its most recent full-year production forecast to 54,000 units from 52,000 units, the startup has a rare opportunity to sway loyalties in the fiercely competitive electric car market.
Other angry Tesla owners we spoke with also mentioned considering legacy brands like Ford’s Mustang Mach-E or Volkswagen’s ID.4. But Rivian is uniquely positioned to scoop up disillusioned Tesla owners and order-holders, given its status as the latest scrappy startup and its reputation as a company that caters to environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts.
Tesla still might escape unscathed
This isn’t the first time Tesla has faced backlash and threats from owners changing allegiances due to Musk’s controversial opinions.
Over the past few years, Musk has gone on a series of political rants — sparring with President Joe Biden on social media, expressing anti-transgender sentiment, and calling Democrats the party of “division & hate,” to name a few.
In response, earlier this year some Tesla owners began putting bumper stickers on their EVs denouncing the CEO. In January, a handful of Tesla owners told Business Insider they’d ditched Tesla over Musk’s antics. And a Bloomberg survey of more than 5,000 Model 3 owners found that many had concerns about Musk’s online presence and his controversial opinions (though many of the owners were still very positive about the car itself).
Some individual investors have also spoken out against Musk in the past, including about his preoccupation with Twitter when he bought the company.
Yet, despite pushback, Musk has a propensity to emerge from controversy virtually unscathed. Wedbush tech analyst Dan Ives said he thinks the “damage is contained for now.”
“We don’t see it having a significant impact on Tesla,” Ives said. “If the fiasco continues, then it could start to have a negative impact.”
In addition to owners and investors, Business Insider also spoke with nearly 10 Tesla workers – often the company’s most enthusiastic supporters – about the latest controversy. A majority of the workers said they still support their company and don’t spend much time focusing on what Musk says on social media because they don’t have accounts on X.
This may be more reflective of the general Tesla fan’s response, given that a similar outcry came last year when Musk made a series of transphobic posts and comments, but it never seemed to really hit Tesla’s bottom line.