Tesla conducting more layoffs, including entire Supercharger team


Just after laying off “more than 10%” of its global workforce, Tesla is laying off even more employees – including senior executives and long-time veterans of the company, most notably the entire Supercharging team.

Tesla started the week before last with news of a huge round of layoffs.

The layoffs were quite broad across the company. Tesla shortened production shifts at Gigafactory Texas and cleared out several teams associated with critical projects there.

One of those heads was Drew Baglino, former VP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering, who had been with the company for 18 years and led the 4680 cell project. While his resignation is being publicly portrayed as voluntary, it is speculated that disappointment with progress on the 4680 project had something to do with it.

Tesla also lost key executive Rohan Patel, its head of policy and business development, during these layoffs.

And as we learned last week, the company also fired its entire new ad team.

But when we originally heard about Tesla’s upcoming layoffs, the rumors we heard suggested that the numbers could involve up to 20% of the company’s workforce. We had seen other signals that layoffs might be coming, but the specific tip came from an anonymous source within Tesla who was correct about the layoff’s timing, though not correct about its scale.

Now, more layoffs have been finalized through an email from CEO Elon Musk to executives stating that 6-year veteran Rebecca Tinucci, Tesla’s Senior Director of EV charging, would be leaving the company on Tuesday, along with most of her 500-person charging team.

Tinucci was responsible for Supercharger rollout, which means that the cutting of the Supercharger team may reflect a change in direction for Tesla. Tesla has been very successful at getting manufacturers to adopt its NACS plug, leading many to suggest that it will be able to run a profitable energy delivery business for a long time to come.

The email states that Tesla will continue to build out some new Superchargers, and will finish those under construction. But relieving the team of its duty may signal a reduction in buildout of the system – at a time when, if anything, faster charging station deployment is needed.

Another executive layoff is 10-year veteran Daniel Ho, Director of Vehicle Programs and New Product Initiatives, who was program manager for the Model S, 3 and Y and had previously served 12 years at Ford in product roles.

Further, most of former executive Rohan Patel’s public policy team will be eliminated.

Musk also said that he wants Tesla to be “absolutely hard core” about headcount reduction, saying that executives whose subordinates “don’t obviously pass the excellent, necessary and trustworthy test” would find themselves relieved of duty as well – suggesting that he wants those executives to fire more employees or be fired themselves.

All of this news comes at a critical time for Tesla, following a quarterly earnings miss in which Tesla significantly missed delivery and earnings estimates, and had a rare year-over-year reduction in sales

In recent quarters, Tesla has guided for a “pause” inbetween growth phases, expecting that sales growth would be more modest until the release of next-gen vehicles like the cheaper “Model 2” and robotaxi products.

Tesla’s layoffs come at a time when many other companies in the tech industry are laying off staff, in an apparent game of follow-the-leader while industry profits are still high.

Electrek’s Take

Firstly – it makes absolutely no sense to lay off the Supercharger team. Supercharging is an incredible opportunity for Tesla, especially now that everyone else has adopted NACS.

Tesla has a fairly simple business case to become the leading “gas station of the future,” with its experience and lead on Superchargers, its more reliable and better-designed stations, and its existing business footprint with so many stations installed around the globe. This business case is even stronger now that the entire industry is behind NACS.

To lay off that whole department just when the company has earned such a big win, when billions in public money is available for buildout, when there is a lead to be maintained, is absolutely crazy. This move, alone, would erode any confidence I have left in Tesla’s CEO – if I still had any.

On layoffs in general, we noted in our coverage of Tesla’s layoffs that the worst part about situations like this is that they greatly affect morale. We imagine morale can’t be great within Tesla right now after huge layoffs, but there can at least be a sense of relief that they’re over after a large round of layoffs closes.

But if Tesla is still doing layoffs, that sense of relief is gone, and employees will still be wondering whether they might show up to work without a job, as we heard happened to many employees on the first day of layoffs.

And while the last layoffs were distasteful enough, continued layoffs might have even worse optics, given Tesla’s move to ask shareholders for a $55 billion payout for its CEO just days after firing 14,000 people. That $55 billion could pay for 40 years worth of salaries for those employees, at $100k each. Quite a large payday for a part-time CEO, made worse by the potential loss of livelihood for thousands more employees who might still be on the chopping block.

Speculatively, there may even be more layoffs coming. A source who was correct about coming layoffs but not exactly correct about their scale or timing told us that potentially another 5% of staff could be laid off, including executives and long-time employees dating back to the Roadster days. These layoffs seem to confirm that rumor (though, again, on a smaller scale), but it’s possible that there may be more coming. Watch this space for news.

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