Did a Tesla Worker Try to Sabotage Elon Musk’s Electric-car Company?

Did a Tesla Worker Try to Sabotage Elon Musk’s Electric-car Company?

Production challenges along with staff departures and lay-offs have been piling on the pressure at Tesla, and now it’s reported to have tracked down a rogue employee within the company.

In an email believed to have been sent by Tesla CEO Elon Musk to employees on Sunday, the boss said he was “dismayed” to discover that an employee has been conducting “quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations.”

The email — with the subject line, “some concerning news” — alleged that the employee had made “direct code changes” to a Tesla operating system under false usernames, and had also been “exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.”

Reuters said it had managed to obtain the internal email, though it didn’t offer any information about the source. Several employees from different units within Tesla have also confirmed the email’s existence to CNBC.

The billionaire entrepreneur explained that the full extent of the worker’s actions were currently unknown, “but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad.” According to Musk, the worker apparently acted out of malice after failing to achieve a sought-after promotion. “In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move,” the Tesla boss wrote.

Musk: There are many who “want Tesla to die”

The immediate task for the company is to find out if the employee was acting alone or with others inside Tesla, or indeed, with any outside entities. Musk said there’s a “long list” of organizations that “want Tesla to die,” among them competitors in the auto industry, Wall Street short-sellers, and oil and gas firms who “don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power and electric cars.”

The CEO urged his employees to be extremely vigilant over the next few weeks as the company seeks to ramp up Model 3 production, noting that “this is when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us.”

In another email seen by CNBC, Musk said the production line at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California had to be temporarily halted because of a small fire on Sunday night. Suggesting that the cause of the incident wasn’t clear, Musk once again urged those on the factory floor to “be on the alert for anything that’s not in the best interests of our company.”

Tesla is feeling the heat as it endeavors to ramp up production of its Model 3 electric car for which it’s taken around half a million orders. Musk’s company had originally aimed for a weekly production run of 5,000 Model 3 cars by the end of last year, but failed to hit the target. It’s currently making 3,500 a week but wants to increase that to 5,000 before the start of July.

It’s also seen several high-profile departures from the company, and recently announced it was laying off around 3,000 workers as part of restructuring efforts. Those working directly on the Model 3 are not affected. 

The apparent discovery of a rogue employee is a serious issue for Tesla, and a distraction that it clearly doesn’t need. Now it must find out if the employee’s alleged nefarious behavior is part of something more sinister so it can put things right and focus fully on its efforts to push forward with production.

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