Tesla Death Watch 35: Musk Outs Zhou

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

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,


Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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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.

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.