By on November 3, 2008

Last week was something of a problem for Tesla Motors. After self-appointed CEO Elon Musk announced cutbacks (i.e. fired a bunch of people and closed their Detroit office), Valleywag (amongst others) reported that the Silicon Valley EV maker was down to its last $9m. For a carmaker, that’s like driving on fumes. Well, it turns out that Tesla had a mole in their midst, who fed the Valleywag website inside info. Which is fair enough. God knows TTAC has its spies friends throughout the industry. And the fact that this grass, Principal Thermal Engineer Peng Zhou was outed within the company, is also no big surprise. But the fact that Elon Musk chose to forward Peng’s mea culpa to everyone in the company [full text after the jump], knowing full well someone would leak THAT, is more than slightly worrying. Then again, discretion is not the better part of fanaticism, egomania and old-fashioned cruelty. Or TTAC’s remit, come to think of it. But then we’re in the muckraking business, not EV manufacture. [thanks to you-know-who-you-are]

FW: Letter of Apology
Elon Musk
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2008 4:22 PM
To: Everybody

Below is what I believe to be a sincere apology from Peng Zhou for the leak to Valleywag.

To: Elon Musk

Subject: Re: Letter of Apology


Dear Tesla Motors Employees,

Tesla Motors is a great company and is pioneering the green revolution. I have always been a proud Tesla employee and we all worked extremely hard towards the company mission. Throughout past two years, I also took a wild ride in the great emotional roller-coaster of WhiteStar 1.0, 2.0 and Model S. Having driven Model S mule few times, I truly believe this is the vehicle that will change the world.

However, macro economic climate changed so dramatically and Model S is getting delayed and the company is refocusing. The past month has been very difficult, sitting through planning meetings and watch employees make in or out of the layoff list. It is so sad to lose 87 employees in a week. I became very upset and did the very foolish thing of writing a letter to Valleywag. I have never thought this letter would create such an upsetting situation for Tesla Motors and I should have never sent that letter. When Elon asked the originator of the letter to step forward, I should have done so. I am deeply sorry things happened this way.

I have submitted my resignation with my manager, who had no knowledge of this. I’ll try my best to make situations better for Tesla Motors.

Again, my sincere apologies.

Best Regards,


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14 Comments on “Tesla Death Watch 35: Musk Outs Zhou...”

  • avatar

    There’s no “outing” here. The letter is addressed to the employees. Unless Mr. Musk leaked it to outsiders *himself*, then he’s done nothing worthy of your ire in this case.

  • avatar

    My god this half sounds like a suicide note.. Peng or Tesla, you decide…

  • avatar

    I have a hard time believing that the apology was voluntary. It’s got too much Tesla promotional BS in it, and my experience as an employment law litigator tells me that employees who get canned will avoid any kind of mea culpa in order to preserve their rights and avoid an admission of liability.

    That Tesla is one strange company. Wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, as customer, shareholder or employee.

  • avatar

    I know Tesla is private, but if the straits are as dire as Peng claims, doesn’t Scheming Elon owe some disclosure to his investors?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    carmaker? Not if they just make excuses.

  • avatar

    Peng is a decent human being. Apparently Farago and dan8001rpm like to wallow in other people’s misery. Pitiful.

  • avatar


    The tone of Peng’s letter is reminiscent of politburo confession. Do you think Musk handed him a pistol with a round in the chamber along with the pen?

  • avatar

    This letter doesn’t pass the common sense test. It doesn’t stink, but it certainly smells.

  • avatar

    I agree with Cicero.

    This letter sounds like it was written at the Hanoi Hilton, gun to head, pliers on toes, wires on testicles.

    There must be more to this insane story.

    What’s the sense of signing (I’m not saying writing) that stupid piece of coerced apology if you get shitcanned anyway?

    I know what I would do. But I’m not telling ….

    @TinChicken: You are misreading Farago and dan8001rpm. Tongue-in-cheek sometimes makes words harder to understand. Everybody is on Peng’s side. We love you, Peng! Come back to China! BYD beckons.

  • avatar

    Ok, wait a minute. Tesla “may not deliver cars?” Hold on, I can’t believe it. This is unbelievable. I though that this car is changing the world? Wow. Who woulda thunk?

  • avatar

    It looks like this Musk guy micromanaged them into the poorhouse. What a jerk.

  • avatar

    What’s scary is that Principal Thermal Engineer Peng Zhou probably knows significanly more about the state and status of Tesla’s cars than CEO Musk-ox does. I.e. this boat isn’t going to float, certainly not on the feeble $9 million remaining.

  • avatar

    The people who put down deposits on these cars deserve to have some warning/updates on the company’s situation, other than the party line. If it looks like the company is going to go under, I’d greatly appreciate some warning, etc if I were in that situation. But I think this ‘apology’ letter is pure b.s. It’s more an outing of the source in an attempt to tarnish his reputation, “Hey everybody, you don’t want this guy on your team, or working for your company because he’s somewhat honest, and leaks all over the place, better not try to mislead, I mean cover up, I mean lie to investors on his watch.”

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Did you see that Tesla lost its trade secrets arbitration case with Fisker? Arbitrator said Tesla’s case had no grounds and was brought in bad faith.

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