By on June 19, 2018

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)]

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65 Comments on “I’m Tellin’ Y’all, It’s Sabotage: Tesla CEO Alleges Skullduggery Among the Ranks...”


  • avatar
    MrGrieves

    I can’t stand it… I know someone planned it. Musk should set it straight, this Watergate.

    But really, is this a case of Elon’s paranoia, or is he already making excuses for not hitting the production target? And if he does hit the target, can we trust the number? He has vowed that the TSLA shorts will be annihilated in a few weeks.

    • 0 avatar
      tnk479

      CEO Elon Musk acquired 72,500 shares of Tesla, paying $343.78 per share for a total amount of $24.92 million. These shares were purchased indirectly through a trust.

      It’s unclear if that is the “short carnage” he was predicting or not. Musk seems to be taunting short sellers on the previous earnings call and on Twitter.

    • 0 avatar
      DrSandman

      Disclosure: I wish I was short $TSLA, but am not. Considering a short $TSLA/long (every other automaker) trade but truthfully, they all have problems.

      This is closer to a Watergate-style thing (if his tweet veered into truthiness) than many will believe. Mark Felt was also passed over for a promotion, and was acting out of selfishness. Generations of people have been affected by his strategic leaking of Woodward.

      Additional disclosure, I worked in the building above the parking garage where Felt met Woodward.

  • avatar
    incautious

    Next Musk will claim that he was kidnapped by Aliens or the Government or the short sellers.

  • avatar
    Lockstops

    Ok, everyone place your bets on when Elon goes full-on loony and murders someone in a hallucinatory rage.

    I can imagine what that tent/factory sounds like in the dead of night, with maniacle laughter echoing from the depths of the production halls.

  • avatar
    Lockstops

    If running a real car company, unveiling real world-class cars and real production targets is taxing,

    https://media.giphy.com/media/39as5ggFrEtOw/giphy.gif

    then imagine how hard it is for a capital raising scheme fraudster to stay in the limelight for a decade in a crumbling house of cards (or tent)…

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Entertainment factor aside, what sane person really wants to put their family in a vehicle coming out of this ‘Keystone Kops on Autopilot’ mess of a factory?

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I think the saboteur is Elon’s brother, Fredo. “I’m smart, I can do things!”

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Back, and to the left. Back, and to the left.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “No. No… It wasn’t us. It was them. It was the Warriors.”

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Elon will be sending one of his directors into the Tank of Piranhas soon. “This organization will not tolerate failure…”

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    PT BARNUM MUSK, now with PT BARNUM car assembly BIG TOP TENT:

    “We would meet our production schedule (of horribly assembled, shoddy quality vehicles) if not for this saboteur!”

  • avatar

    All I can imagine is the final scene from Gung Ho. With Musk after cleaning an imaginary windshield, tells the board he’s proud of these cars as he hops into one to drive away.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Captain Queeg: Ahh, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with… geometric logic… that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I’d have produced that key if they hadn’t of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers…

  • avatar
    dejal1

    Baron Harkonnen: I will have Arrakis back for myself! He who controls the Spice controls the universe and what Piter did not tell you is we have control of someone who is very close, very close, to Duke Leto! This person, this traitor, will be worth more to us than ten legions of Sardaukar!

    Feyd-Rautha: And who is this, traitor?

    Baron Harkonnen: I won’t tell you who the traitor is, or when we’ll attack. However, the Duke will die before these eyes and he’ll know, he’ll know, that it is I, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who encompasses his doom!

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Reminds me of communist five-year development plans, with the workers laboring selflessly to meet the targets while internal saboteurs and external enemies working hard to extinguish the people’s will. Vigilance was paramount; adherence to the principles of marxism-leninism a shining beacon of hope.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    “What’s the frequency, Elon?”

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Maybe Elon can write a NYT best selling book titled: What Happened – How big oil, short sellers, deplorables, and maybe some Russians killed Tesla.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    The Hunt For Red October.

    The saboteur is a line cook that works in the Tesla kitchen, who has been dousing jello and mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs with large quantities of saltpeter.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    It could still go either way with Tesla. I’m not a fan myself, but all the snark I’m reading sounds a bit premature. If you think Elon is twisted, perhaps you should do some research on Henry Ford. Most successful entrepreneurs are driven people – meaning they are far from normal. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. The Ford Motor Company we know today is actually Henry the First’s third crack at it.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Assuming all of this is true, is there a reason Musk didn’t handle this discreetly? I don’t see how it serves Tesla to make public the fact that there’s an alleged saboteur in its ranks, unless Musk is about to try to use it as an excuse.

    That company is a PR nightmare.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s just the desire for MORE PR, no matter how it comes. He wrote that and put conspiracy theories on there fully knowing it would leak to the media immediately.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        If I were him, I would not want PR focused on my poorly-managed mass-market launch. I’d be pointing and throwing firecrackers as diversions. “Quick, look over there!”

        Unless this *is* the diversion.

        Plus, the conspiracy nonsense makes him sound like a nutcase. Maybe there are saboteurs, but there’s a certain dignity in quietly squashing their efforts, rather than calling attention to them.

  • avatar

    Please stop using the word super in your communications. PLEASE.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    If this is true (and coming from the con man who knows) then:

    Not all heros wear capes.

  • avatar
    stckshft

    Time for some Beastie Boys!! https://youtu.be/__zoCMZVN9w

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    It’s a circus, It’s a circus I tell ya. What goes on under this tent you don’t want to know.

    Elon Musk and P.T. Barnum have a great deal in common.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    It’s obvious who did this. It was the Arabs. They are concerned that the Tesla will put the camels out of business. In addition they have been insulted by the cultural appropriation that Tesla has engaged in by using tents for their factory.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      No, it’s the CIA and other intelligence alphabet soup agencies.

      If demand for oil is cut by a third or half globally, as a result of electric propulsion displacing ICE motors in vehicles, ships, planes, trains, etc., the disruptive result to the global economy, commodities and currencies would result in WWIII.

      Word on the street is that the Alphabet Agencies have wet work contractors on standby to take Elon out if their efforts at sabotage fall short of the mark.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The fantasies here are amazing. However, I am reminded of the words of a famous author:

    “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    A bit of a segue, but: Many years ago I had an XR4Ti. Somehow it sucked a capscrew into the engine, polished the head of the screw nicely at the valve, then sucked it in. there were no missing screws anywhere, so I always wondered. I still have that screw somewhere.

    The interesting thing is that years later I read about someone who had been sabotaging engines, by dropping bolts into the intake manifolds.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That’s crazy.

      There are stories about sabotage at GM’s Oklahoma City Assembly plant (shuttered in 2006). Retired NFL player Brian Bosworth worked there in the 80s, and once claimed that co-workers taught him how to hang nuts and bolts in the body that would only make noise once the car was purchased. Sounds believable, especially if there was union tension at the time. Also, that plant was mostly for overflow and never made any of GM’s particularly-good products, so quality control probably wasn’t great.

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      I could tell you stories about my XR4Ti !!! Horror stories ! I think that they dropped mine off of the boat on the voyage over. WORST CAR EVER ! And don’t tell me about Yugos. Yugos were E-class Mercedes’s compared to the ‘Silver Hornet’ XR4Ti that I had. A 24 month-long NIGHTMARE ! AND COSTLY !…

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    Dear Elon Muskrat,

    I’d be in full support of your efforts if you knocked off all your side efforts like shooting Lotus electrics into space, building tubes so that you can send earthworms to the speed of sound, and you’d make an electric tractor trailer that showed evidence that real truckers had input on the design instead of looking so dapper and cute.

    I’d be in full support of your efforts if you gave a darn about quality.

    I’d be in full support of your efforts if you were free and open with those who buy second hand Teslas and offer them support, parts, and maintenance.

    Until you get off your high horse, I’ll be the first to take a chainsaw to the horse’s legs.

    Schmuck

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    Sounds like Muskrat’s workers have graduated from the GM Lordstown, OH plant that was infamous for adding to the negatives of the Chevrolet Vega when they threw tantrums when the line was sped up to meet initial demand.

    It makes me smile saying Tesla and Chevrolet Vega in the same sentence.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    “It’s NOT a TOO-MUH !”

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    With them missing another target this is just CYA.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    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.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      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.

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