Musk Reportedly Fired Tesla’s Entire Supercharger Team Because Charging Chief Didn’t Want To Fire More People

Musk Reportedly Fired Tesla’s Entire Supercharger Team Because Charging Chief Didn’t Want To Fire More People

Elon Musk fired the head of Tesla’s Supercharger department late last month, along with her entire 500-person team. It was a confusing decision that raised more questions than answers, especially considering that Musk had recently convinced every other automaker to agree to make their electric vehicles compatible with Tesla’s chargers. Assuming Reuters’ latest report is accurate, though, firing the Supercharger team wasn’t a business decision or a shift in strategy. It was simply Musk getting mad at someone for pushing back on what he was asking for and punishing the entire team as part of his tantrum.

According to Reuters’ sources, Rebecca Tinucci, Tesla’s head of charging, had already laid off between 15 and 20 per cent of the Supercharger team when Musk began pushing for more layoffs. When she pushed back, he not only fired her but also got rid of her entire team at the same time. Since then, Musk has been attempting to do damage control, tweeting about continuing to expand the charging network and reportedly attempting to rehire some of the laid-off Supercharger staffers.

The clearout reportedly came after a change in leadership and appears to be part of a wider pattern of chaos and confusion going on inside Tesla:

Tinucci was one of few high-ranking female Tesla executives. She recently started reporting directly to Musk, following the departure of battery-and-energy chief Drew Baglino, according to four former Supercharger-team staffers. They said Baglino had historically overseen the charging department without much involvement from Musk.

The charging-team layoffs mark the latest drama in a tumultuous year for Tesla as Musk has shut down or delayed several core efforts meant to drive the rapid EV sales growth that investors have expected. Instead, Musk now says Tesla will shift its main focus to self-driving cars, a fiercely competitive and riskier business that could take years to develop.

The company posted its first decline in auto sales since 2020 in the first quarter amid fierce competition from Chinese electric-vehicle makers and sagging worldwide EV demand. Reuters reported in April that Tesla had scrapped plans for a long-awaited affordable car known as the Model 2. That has thrown into doubt Tesla’s plans for new factories in Mexico and India, where Musk had been expected to travel last month to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before canceling at the last minute. And a host of executives have departed amid deep companywide layoffs.

And yet, in addition to canceling four planned Supercharger sites in New York, Tesla’s global supply manager recently sent an email to contractors and suppliers — and seen by Reuters — telling them to “please hold on breaking ground on any newly awarded construction projects.” It also included the line, “I understand that this period of change may be challenging, and that patience is not easy when expecting to be paid!”

With the Supercharger team gone, Tesla brought in the energy team to take over and handle winding down various charging projects. They also apparently received little retraining to ensure they could do their jobs well, with one contractor saying the Tesla employees he’s spoken with since the mass firing “don’t know a thing.”

According to two former employees, Tesla’s energy division, which sells solar systems and battery storage were already struggling to handle their workload before they were forced to take on the Supercharger team’s workload. So it came as a surprise when Musk later said Tesla “still plans to grow the Supercharger network, just at a slower pace,” and claimed that “Tesla will spend well over $US500M expanding our Supercharger network to create thousands of NEW chargers this year.”

While $US500 million is certainly a lot of money, it also reportedly much lower than what the team had planned to invest in chargers, with one estimate suggesting a 77 percent decrease in the number of Superchargers that Tesla was planning to build in 2024. Still, overseeing the installation of those charging hubs will likely require a team of several hundred employees that Tesla no longer has in place.

The layoffs also affect contractors that brought on employees of their own and budgeted for the year based on agreements with Tesla. Musk’s decision to get rid of the Supercharging team and cut back on Supercharger expansion hurts those companies, too. “It’s just unfortunate that now they’re stuck holding the bag on all these different projects,” one former employee told Reuters. “It’s really sad to see all these relationships burned and people be really angry —rightfully so.”

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