GM quickly suspends promoting on Twitter after Musk acquisition

DETROIT — General Motors is suspending its advertising on Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the social media platform, the company told CNBC on Friday.

The Detroit-based automaker, a rival of the Musk-led electric vehicle maker Teslasaid it “paused” advertising while assessing Twitter’s new direction. It will continue to use the platform to interact with customers but will not pay for advertising, GM added.

“We are working with Twitter to understand the platform’s direction under its new ownership. As is usual with a significant media platform change, we have temporarily suspended our paid advertising. Our interactions with customer care on Twitter continue,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Under CEO Mary Barra, the Detroit-based company was among the first automakers to announce billions of dollars in spending to better compete against Tesla in the battery electric vehicle segment.

A General Motors sign is seen during an event January 25, 2022 in Lansing, Michigan. – General Motors will create 4,000 new jobs and retain 1,000 and significantly increase production capacity for battery cells and electric trucks.

Jeff Kowalski | AFP | Getty Images

A speaker for Ford engine, another of Tesla’s rivals, told CNBC that the automaker doesn’t currently advertise on Twitter and didn’t do so prior to Elon Musk’s take-private deal. They added: “We will continue to evaluate the direction of the platform under the new ownership.”

However, when presented with a screenshot of a sponsored tweet by Ford CEO Jim Farley, the spokesperson could not confirm the last time Ford or its employees may have paid for ads, including sponsored tweets, on the platform.

Ford continues to engage with its customers on Twitter.

Other car companies, including Rivian, Stellar and alphabetWaymo, which is owned by Waymo, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether they plan to suspend advertising or stop using the social media platform after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion.

Manufacturer of electric trucks Nicola said it has no plans to change anything about the platform.

Twitter’s future direction has been central to the acquisition story. Musk has said he is a “free speech absolutist” who would restore the account of former President Donald Trump, who was banned for his tweets during the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

Musk said Friday that he is planning a “Content Moderation Council” and will not be restoring accounts or making any major content decisions until it is called. Musk said in a statement to advertisers this week that he can’t let Twitter become a “one-size-fits-all hellscape.”

Henrik Fisker, CEO of the EV startup fisherman Inc., deleted its Twitter account earlier this year when Twitter’s board of directors accepted Musk’s offer to buy and privatize the company. Fisker Inc. continues to use Twitter, which all major automotive brands use for customer engagement and marketing.

Musk has long boasted that Tesla doesn’t pay for traditional advertising, a price that’s added up for traditional automaker brands over the years.

Instead, Tesla rewards individuals who lead or are members of Tesla Owners Clubs and other social media influencers who promote the company’s products, stock and music on social media, particularly Twitter and YouTube, and on fan blogs.

They often get early access to Tesla products, like the company’s Full Self-Driving Beta software, and get tickets to company events where attendance is limited.

In September 2020, Tesla considered a shareholder proposal to begin strategic paid advertising to educate the public about its vehicles and charging network. Tesla’s board of directors recommended, and shareholders voted with the board, against paying for traditional advertising campaigns.

In the company’s 2021 annual report, Tesla wrote, “We have historically been able to garner significant media coverage of our company and products, and we believe we will continue to do so. Such commonplace media coverage and word of mouth are key drivers of our sales leads and have helped us generate sales without traditional advertising and at relatively low marketing costs.”

Financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission reported that marketing, promotional and advertising expenses were “immaterial” for the years ended December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019.

— CNBC’s John Rosevear contributed to this report.

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