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It’s buyer’s remorse for these Jews who love their Teslas but are disgusted with Elon Musk

The Twitter CEO’s erratic tweets and permissive policies on antisemites are driving away some once proud car owners

Hannah Lavon was feeling pretty good about the Tesla Model 3 she bought a few years ago. Technically, it was a downgrade: Her previous car had been the more expensive Model S. But Lavon, a 39-year-old from Philadelphia who owns a designer sock company, liked its  “sci-fiesque” design, and as with her first Tesla, its battery life and extended network of charging stations allows her to drive long-distance.

And she liked Elon Musk, the CEO of the company — the first to mass-market a fully electric car.

“At first, when Tesla came out, I just thought he was a very creative person. I really thought he cared about helping humanity,” she said. “At the time, he wasn’t being so loud and extremely offensive.”

Lavon isn’t the only Jewish Tesla owner who has changed her opinion of the man, and by extension, the car. Several Tesla-owning Jews told the Forward that Musk’s increasingly erratic social media behavior — and his seeming insensitivity to its impact on Jews — has left them regretting their purchases.

To be sure, many Tesla owners, Jewish or not, have no buyer’s remorse. Sales of the high-performance, environmentally friendly cars, which range from about $35,000 to $140,000 — are still climbing. Many still admire Musk for his entrepreneurial spirit and bold ideas for high-speed trains and affordable rockets.

But since Musk’s acquisition of Twitter in October, the company has fired the team that policed hate speech and reinstated numerous high profile antisemites, including Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, and Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, while banning several progressives and journalists. A recent study showed antisemitism in Twitter spiked 61% since Musk bought it. And Musk himself has increasingly posted far-right talking points and conspiratorial tweets. 

“I was just like, ‘Shut up,’” said Lavon. And while she wouldn’t go so far to label Musk antisemitic, she said some of his actions are. 

“I think he’s unfortunately a horrible human being and has a crazy ego,” said Lavon. “It’s too bad.” 

No sale

Yaroslav Ivanov, 27, a Jew who is originally from Ukraine and works in blockchain technology, was planning to buy a Tesla while living in Dubai earlier this year. Like Lavon, he held a high opinion of Musk, whom he saw as not just a visionary, but a beneficent person whose Starlink Internet company was providing much-needed services to the Ukrainian military during the war with Russia.

But Musk’s embrace of West, despite the rapper’s increasingly vitriolic antisemitic tirades, and Musk’s own tweets urging the U.S. to back away from supporting Ukraine, led to Ivanov turning away from Tesla. Instead of buying one, he is now weighing his options on other electric vehicles. 

“I have two (problems) with Elon Musk,” he said. “The first is about Nazis and Jews and the second is about the relationship with Ukraine.”

A two-Tesla family

Andy Heller and his wife bought a Model 3 Tesla for him a few years ago, and a Model Y for her in August. He liked the cars, and he appreciated Musk for his business acumen and “creative mind.”

But in the months since their last Tesla purchase, the Jewish San Francisco businessman, 60, said Musk’s behavior has alarmed him, including his embrace of far-right tropes that have been deemed antisemitic, and tweets that contain language associated with QAnon.

Heller said when he emigrated to the U.S. from Canada in the 1970s, he saw his new country as a haven for religious and other minorities, but that the rise of far-right politicians in recent years has sent the nation backwards. He sees Musk’s purchase of Twitter as an accelerant of the trend. 

“It’s almost like the last six years we’ve gone back 60 years,” he said. There have always been antisemites, “but they haven’t had a platform. And now they have not only a platform, they have a mechanism to bring in followers and people who listen to them and respect them.”

Now, partly because of his disgust with Musk, the Hellers plan to sell their older Tesla once they take delivery on a Cadillac Lyric. But they’ll keep the new one at least for a while.

Lavon won’t part with her Tesla, she said, because she doesn’t see many other acceptable options on the market.

“No one else has a supercharger network that can compete with Tesla right now,” she said. “Even if these cars have that, none has that kind of mileage. There’s not a lot of options really, or they’re really ugly.”

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