A feud between Former President Donald Trump and Tesla CEO Elon Musk seems to be expanding. That isn’t great news for Tesla shareholders. Musk might want to consider a new strategy for dealing with electric-vehicle detractors.
Yes, it’s time for Tesla (ticker: TSLA) to invest in public relations.
Over the weekend, Trump took some shots at EVs in a speech given in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The President detailed an anecdote about a friend driving from Kentucky to Washington, D.C. in an EV. The trip went terribly, with long waits for charging.
The President’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the speech or any ongoing feud with Musk.
About the Kentucky trip, Tesla has an app that lets travels plan trips. A trip from Lexington, KY, to Washington, D.C. is about 500 miles, and would require about 55 minutes of charging in a Tesla following the app’s directions.
Tesla’s charging network, however, comprises the fast chargers than can deliver 50 or 100 miles of range early in a charging cycle. EVs using other charging networks could take longer to charge.
Trump’s speech dissing EVs comes a few weeks after Trump called Elon Musk another “ bull**** artist .” Musk responded with a tweet saying it was time for Trump to “hang up is hat & sail into the sunset,” and another suggesting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would be better suited to run for president in 2024.
The speech, the feud and Republican EV criticism following California’s coming ban on sales of new cars powered by gasoline, all highlight the fact that it might be time for Tesla to rethink its PR strategy.
EV penetration is set to grow faster than people expected just a few months ago. Tuesday, Wolfe Research analyst Rod Lache increased his EV penetration estimate for 2025 new-car sales to 20% from 10%. The bump was due in part to new purchase tax credits that are included in the new Inflation Reduction Act.
More EVs means, to some extent, more confusion for car buyers. And stories like the one Trump told—with charging needed every hundred miles or so of driving—might stick in the public’s conscious. Most modern EVs can go between 200 and 300 miles on a single charge.
Musk has been firm in his position that Tesla doesn’t need PR. Still, Tesla had shed a more formal PR effort before it was the most valuable auto company on the planet, before it employed more than 100,000 people on three continents and before Americans started buying more EVs.
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Pennsylvania speech.
Tesla stock rose 1.6% in Tuesday trading. Lache also upgraded Tesla stock to Buy from Hold, likely helping shares. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively.
Write to Al Root at email@example.com