Uber Frustrated With Musk’s Remaining Unscathed on Trump’s Panel

Ride-hailing firm Uber is frustrated with the resiliency Tesla CEO Elon Musk is showing by staying on the President Donald Trump’s economic advisory panel after Uber chief Travis Kalanick quit.

In off-the-record conversations with Bloomberg, Uber senior executives and investors have stated concerns that so far Musk has been unscathed by his participation in Trump’s economic advisory panels that Kalanick had to abandon.

Uber had been deluged with attacks, and lost customers and drivers, after recently allowing its drivers to pick up riders during a taxi driver boycott at JFK Airport in New York. The taxi industry had been protesting the Trump administration’s sudden and strict immigrant policy. That led to Kalanick quitting Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum to distance the company from the scandal.

Tesla felt minimal backlash during that time, and Musk committed to support a more inclusive immigration policy. He also said he has no plans to leave the committee, and wants to be heard on immigration policy and other issues such as establishing a carbon tax and taking climate change more seriously.

Uber supporters resent Silicon Valley-neighbor Tesla for not having to face the onslaught.

“That’s not representative of how we feel,” said Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for Uber. “No one working at Uber would want another company to experience what we have over the past few weeks.”

Uber also felt a sting in December that Tesla was able to clear. Uber had launched a small fleet of self-driving cars for testing in California, which resulted in a fight with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. One of its defenses was the Uber had been doing the same as Tesla in the state without DMV retribution.

“What we are doing today is just like Tesla,” Anthony Levandowski, head of the company’s Advanced Technologies Group overseeing self-driving cars and other projects, said at the time.

That didn’t work well with the agency. DMV revoked Uber’s vehicle registrations and allowed Tesla drivers to continue testing its autonomous system in the state, which led to Uber relocating to Arizona for self-driving car testing.

There may be a bit of resentment coming from Kalanick toward the image Musk has been able to retain. Kalanick has been portrayed in media as a rebel who champions free markets, willing to battle the taxi industry and governments around the world.

“Elon Musk absolutely has created the Tesla brand very much based on his personal brand,” said Daniel Binns, managing director at Omnicom Group Inc.-owned consulting firm Interbrand. “There’s a huge amount of positive goodwill for the brand, and therefore, if there was any sense of negativity, they’d be able to deal with it.”

Tesla offered no comment.

“We know we’ve made mistakes in the past, and we are working hard to serve riders, drivers and cities around the world,” Uber’s Hazelbaker said.

SEE ALSO:  Uber Loses $1.27 Billion As Driver Subsidies and Competition Take Their Toll

Uber took a serious hit over the immigration policy issues. More than 200,000 people removed the Uber app from their smart phones within a week, a significant increase over the normal customer loss pattern, a person familiar with the matter has said.

Uber put out several strongly worded statements to drivers and customers opposing Trump’s refugee ban. The company committed $3 million to help its drivers who were affected by the order.

Tesla is known for surviving and emerging relatively unscathed from crises, with the battery pack fires from a few years ago and the recent Autopilot fatal crash standing out.

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