The Industry

Elon Musk Warns Tesla Employees to Look Out for Saboteurs

Musk suggested that Wall Street short sellers and oil companies may try to sabotage Tesla.
Musk suggested that Wall Street short sellers and oil companies may try to sabotage Tesla. Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been advising employees to look out for turncoats in their ranks, according to emails obtained by CNBC. In a company-wide email Musk sent on Sunday night, he claimed that he had recently learned of an employee who had “conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations.” The employee allegedly used fake usernames to make direct coding changes to the company’s manufacturing operating system and sent large quantities of confidential data to third parties.

Even though the saboteur claimed that he was simply upset that he had not received a promotion, Musk indicated that there will be a further investigation into whether he had any accomplices or was colluding with external organizations. The CEO then ran through a list of enemies who “want Tesla to die,” such as “Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars” and “oil & gas companies.” He also suggested that “big gas/diesel car company competitors” may be particularly willing to resort to underhanded tactics.  As Musk wrote, “If they’re willing to cheat so much about emissions, maybe they’re willing to cheat in other ways?”

Musk sent another email to all Tesla employees on Monday regarding a “strange incident that was hard to explain.”  On Sunday night there had been a small fire on one of the production lines in its Fremont factory that held up manufacturing for several hours, but did not result in any injuries or critical damage to the equipment. As CNBC has reported, the factory’s paint shop has seen at least four fires since 2014, yet Musk floated the possibility that an arsonists might have been behind this most recent fire. He wrote in the email, “Could just be a random event, but as [former Intel CEO] Andy Grove said, ‘Only the paranoid survive.’”

At the end of both emails, Musk urges employees to be on the lookout for evidence of sabotage or negligence, and to report suspicious activity to management.

Tesla has recently been under immense pressure to streamline production of the Model 3 sedan, which has experienced repeated delays over the last year. Musk told investors during Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in early June that the company is on track to become profitable in the third quarter, but that likely will only happen if it is able to ramp up operations to produce 5,000 Model 3s per week, a target that its factory has missed in the past.