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.