Tesla lays off ‘more than 10%’ of its global workforce

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Tesla has announced layoffs of “more than 10%” of its global workforce in an internal company-wide email.

For the last few months, it has looked like Tesla might be preparing for a round of layoffs. Tesla told managers to identify critical team members, and paused some stock rewards while canceling some employees’ annual reviews. It also reduced production at Gigafactory Shanghai.

Then, over the weekend, we heard rumors that these layoffs were about to happen, which came to us from multiple independent sources, as we reported on yesterday. The rumors indicated that layoffs could be as high as 20%, and in addition we heard that Tesla would shorten Cybertruck production shifts at Gigafactory Texas (despite CEO Elon Musk’s recent insistence that Cybertruck is currently production constrained).

Now those rumors have been confirmed – though with a lower number – in a company-wide email sent by Musk, which leaked to the press this morning. The full text of the email is below:

Over the years, we have grown rapidly with multiple factories scaling around the globe. With this rapid growth there has been duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas. As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity. 

As part of this effort, we have done a thorough review of the organization and made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount by more than 10% globally. There is nothing I hate more, but it must be done. This will enable us to be lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle.

I would like to thank everyone who is departing Tesla for their hard work over the years. I’m deeply grateful for your many contributions to our mission and we wish you well in your future opportunities. It is very difficult to say goodbye.

For those remaining, I would like to thank you in advance for the difficult job that remains ahead. We are developing some of the most revolutionary technologies in auto, energy and artificial intelligence. As we prepare the company for the next phase of growth, your resolve will make a huge difference in getting us there.

Thanks,
Elon

Additionally there are reports that some employees have already been locked out of system access.

While we don’t have an exact percentage, “more than 10%” means at least 14,000 employees will be laid off, as Tesla’s employee headcount is somewhere on the order of 140,000 total employees (Notably, Tesla’s headcount has not experienced as much “rapid growth” in recent years as it has in the past, making that line of the email ring somewhat hollow).

And we don’t know which specific teams will be most or least affected by Tesla’s layoffs, but two well-known Tesla executives are now missing the “Tesla-affiliated” badge on twitter – Drew Baglino and Rohan Patel.

Baglino is still listed as Senior VP of Powertrain and Energy on Tesla’s website, and Patel is Tesla’s Policy chair who has also served as an impromptu Tesla PR arm on twitter, commenting on news in the place of Tesla’s still incomprehensibly-nonexistent PR department.

While this may not mean anything, the badge does still exist and is shown on Franz von Holzhausen’s profile, so it is conspicuous that it is missing from the aforementioned executives.

The news follows a bad quarterly delivery report in which Tesla significantly missed delivery estimates, and had a rare year-over-year reduction in sales. While Tesla does not break out sales by geographical region, the main dip seems to have come from China, where Chinese EV makers are ramping quickly both in the domestic and export market.

Tesla will deliver its quarterly profits report next Tuesday, April 23. Analysts estimate that Tesla will still turn a profit of around 50 cents a share, down from 85 cents a share in Q1 2023.

In previous 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 ~$25,000 Model 2 (though Reuters recently reported that Musk wants to shift Tesla’s focus to a robotaxi model, which Musk denied just hours before announcing the robotaxi unveiling event).

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

One issue I’ve always had with Tesla is that, if anything, it feels like headcount in the company is too low, not too high. There are so many issues that seem to fall through the cracks, and I think the reason for this is because Tesla employees are often overworked. This leads to burnout and turnover, a lack of institutional memory, and a lack of ownership for certain problems that don’t get solved.

Tesla owes a lot of its success to its “startup mentality,” where it’s all hands on deck to grow the company that is shaking up a couple of the largest entire sectors on earth – automotive and energy. The fact that it has shaken up these sectors so successfully is proof that this approach has been effective.

And that helps in recruiting as well – there are a lot of jobs that claim they are changing the world, but Tesla can really claim that it legitimately is on the vanguard of the changing transportation industry. That’s a great way to recruit the best and brightest, and as a result, the company hasn’t had to worry much about losing talent since it has such a recruitment advantage and can take its pick of the brightest minds out there (though that recruitment advantage could be changing, given Musk’s increasingly distasteful behavior).

However, Tesla is 20 years old now. It’s an enormous and established company. It needs to mature and have more established processes, less turnover, and more security for its employees. These sorts of things help reduce errors and increase morale.

While these layoffs are a reaction to a reduction in sales (but not a loss of money if analysts are to be believed – Tesla is likely still profitable, though we’ll hear more next Tuesday), they can’t be helping with morale.

Remaining employees will wake up to an email from a CEO who is increasingly absent as he spends all of his time addicted to an app he wasted $44 billion on (yet demands more stock while firing 10% of the company), see their already-large workloads get larger, and wonder if the feeling of changing the world is really worth all these newly-apparent downsides. Maybe they’ll wonder if getting poached by the new tech buzzword wouldn’t be so bad.

Which is a shame, because we do need Tesla to keep pushing things forward, and to keep attracting the best and brightest. While Pandora’s box is open and EVs are here to stay at this point, regardless Tesla’s ups and rare downs, the rest of the industry is still trying hard to pump the brakes on the transition, even if it means America will be less competitive if they get their way.

Tesla is one of the few entities that is large enough and committed enough to dragging those timelines forward, whether the rest of the industry likes it or not. We need a healthy Tesla, and for that, we need good employee morale.

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