Tesla Death Watch 35: Musk Outs Zhou

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
tesla death watch 35 musk outs zhou

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.

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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2 of 14 comments
  • SexCpotatoes SexCpotatoes on Nov 04, 2008

    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."

  • Tesla deathwatcher Tesla deathwatcher on Nov 05, 2008

    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.

  • Hugh I have no trouble believing they exaggerated somewhat, but I also figure they were factoring in the cost of the research and engineering. I am just disappointed at how they abandoned their own product (again).
  • TheEndlessEnigma Mustang, MX-5
  • Probert I have used both level one and level 2 charging at my house. I use this for local needs. I have a fairly regular 350 mile round trip. I charge after about 125 miles one way, at a level 3 at a KIA dealer. I could do it in a straight shot, but this leaves me plenty of reserve if I need it in the city.I charge at the same place on the way out, adding about 40%, and I'm home free.A number of chargers have opened since I got the Niro 2 years ago, so I have a fair amount of flexibility on this route. I have used EA chargers on the route, and also a handy, and friendly Harley dealer charger.
  • Dan65708323 I think Ford it going to go under. They can't lose 3 billion ever year for years. All their EV's are on stop sales. Good luck Ford.
  • Kcflyer LC 500