I'm Tellin' Y'all, It's Sabotage: Tesla CEO Alleges Skullduggery Among the Ranks

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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i m tellin y all it s sabotage tesla ceo alleges skullduggery among the ranks

We’re less than two weeks away from the end of the second quarter, and it’s all hands on deck at Tesla ( minus the hands being laid off). After missing past production targets for its Model 3, workers at the automaker’s Fremont, California assembly plant are engaged in an all-out effort to build 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of June — a necessary goal to placate investors, as well as start up production of more lucrative model variants.

As you read here, there’s now vehicle assembly taking place in a giant tent set up outside factory walls. Innovative!

Late Monday, news broke that Tesla CEO Elon Musk caught an employee attempting to sabotage the plant’s efforts. The motivations of this individual, according to Musk, could be many. We’re talking grassy knoll stuff.

According to CNBC, Musk alerted employees to the act in an email sent at three minutes to midnight on Sunday. Several employees confirmed the email. In it, Musk claimed the individual made “direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.”

“The full extent of his actions are not yet clear,” Musk wrote, “but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad. His stated motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive.”

The CEO went on to say that it wasn’t known if the employee was collaborating with other employees, or perhaps doing the dirty work for an outside organization. An investigation is underway, he said. The email then veered into speculation, with Musk raising the spectre of well-known boogeymen — entities frequently cited by the automaker’s fan base whenever something goes wrong at their beloved company. Big Oil. Legacy automakers. Short-sellers.

Here’s that paragraph in full:

As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die. These include Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lot more. Then there are the oil & gas companies, the wealthiest industry in the world — they don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power & electric cars. Don’t want to blow your mind, but rumor has it that those companies are sometimes not super nice. Then there are the multitude of big gas/diesel car company competitors. If they’re willing to cheat so much about emissions, maybe they’re willing to cheat in other ways?

Musk urged vigilance, stating that, “This is when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us.”

The following morning brought another email to employees, this one concerning a “small fire” that halted the factory’s body production line for several hours on Sunday night. In an email to CNBC, Tesla said “there was smoldering in an air filter in the welding area of the body line. The smoldering was extinguished in a matter of seconds.” No injuries or equipment damage resulted from the fire, Tesla claimed, and the Fremont Fire Department reported it received no calls for assistance. Fires appear to be a reoccurring problem at Fremont.

Musk ended his second email to workers with another call for vigilance, implying that the incident may not have been a random event. “Please be on the alert for anything that’s not in the best interests of our company,” he advised employees.

[Image: Maurizio Pesce/ Flickr ( CC BY 2.0)]

Steph Willems
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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jun 19, 2018

    Besieged from all sides, and needing to splash worldwide headlines twice a week minimum as per the Tesla Master Plan, this week Saint Elon found himself a day late and a headline short ... Reinventing himself as a paranoid delusional was easy, and picking a teed-off employee to accuse was a snap. Writing the email to employees to be be on the lookout for saboteurs or union-installed automatic self-clogging paint shop air filters running amok was the work of a mere ten minutes. Musk had caught the saboteur when the guy tripped over his sleeping bag on the floor, and forced him to admit his nefarious ways. Meanwhile: "Fremont police didn’t receive or respond to any calls for service at the Tesla plant over the weekend, according to a spokeswoman." Detroit News One wonders why. Was a crime committed or not? You be the judge. But another headline was accomplished, and the short seller boys-in-waiting were handed an Elonian tongue-lashing. All's well in Teslaville for now. Tune in for next week's episode of Musk At Large.

  • Shortest Circuit Shortest Circuit on Jun 20, 2018

    This sounds more and more like Preston Tucker. It's big oil, it's the competitors, it's SEC... not at all the still-in-development platform, or the suspicious financial maneuvers, and absolutely not the mechanics literally running after your brand new car with wrenches tightening the last bolts. The only difference being when it all goes belly-up, Teslas won't do a demonstration in front of the courthouse and nobody will assemble them out of passion long after the factory closed.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jun 20, 2018

      This is almost as overt as Tucker while showing a lot of DeLorean in how Musk himself is being reviled by his opponents. If we assume Musk is being truthful (and most don't or won't) then this is the first hard evidence of intentional malfeasance while previous events are, shall we say, 'too coincidental'. My take, almost from the beginning of the sudden rash of 'industrial injuries' has been that there is a concerted effort to force Tesla into letting the UAW into the plant but now it seems far worse as there have been unexplained fires in the paint shop (which would typically have an extensive fire suppression system) and other "bottlenecks" in production that just don't seem to make sense. Now, I'm not saying all of these events are intentional, only that their frequency and effects have become suspicious. Musk is right in what should be possible from a physics point of view but it seems strange that the reality isn't following the physics in so many cases. The problem with too much automation is that there is an increased chance that a tiny glitch can cause a major incident--especially if that glitch is an intentional one. Is it the UAW? I can't say either way. I will say that if the UAW is involved, they're probably not alone, considering the potential impact on the transportation industry as a whole Tesla portends. Even OTR buses like Greyhound/Trailways and others could see benefit as for now those highway buses use poured concrete ballast beneath the cargo-area floor to lower their center of gravity. That space as well as the engine compartment could be taken up with battery packs offering similar stability while completely eliminating the typical exhaust smells (and sometimes smoke) as well as reducing fuel costs by as much as 75%, or more if fuel prices continue to rise. Speculation? Perhaps. But let's call it a logical progression from what we already know.

  • TheMrFreeze This new 500e is selling really well in Europe, but here in the US the demographic that would be interested in a car like this is definitely in the minority. At $33K for this upscale model is a tough sell but hopefully incentives will come into play to make this a much more appealing option for those looking for a funky daily driver or a practical second car for the family
  • ToolGuy "EVs tend to be less efficient at higher speeds on highways than commuting around town. It’s also important to note that where you live and how you drive can have an outsized impact on range, as people with lead feet or those living in colder climates may find a significant drop in range."• Let's not forget elevation changes!Signed, Captain Obvious 🙂
  • Probert The EPA estimate is just that. Of course weather and driving habits affect the range. This is not news. The EPA tests on a combined cycle, so just running at 70 is not what the EPA numbers reflect. That said, my EV - a humble KIA Niro, freequently exceeds estimates, even on long highway runs. If most of your driving is local and stop and go, you can expect a range around 20% above estimates. The important thing is that the range estimation that the car gives you, is accurate, as it reflects your actual driver habits. Also, even with winter drops, or high speed runs, an EV is about 400% more efficient than an ICE.
  • ToolGuy Telluride killer
  • Ollicat And I don't think this test included changes in the weather which can affect range another 15 - 20%. Plus, I understand that it is very bad for the battery to run it down to zero. From my research on battery longevity, one is supposed to keep their battery from 20% to 80 or 90%. So in effect, one only really has at most, 70% of the posted range on an EV, if they want to preserve the life of their battery. And the ultra quick chargers are also supposed to be used sparingly. Hmmm.