Tesla has fought back against claims made in an explosive deep dive on Tesla published on Thursday by Wired.
Journalist Charles Duhigg spoke with current and former Tesla employees over the course of six months during the company’s ‘production hell’ caused by the production ramp for the Model 3.
The feature told stories of CEO Elon Musk going on firing rampages, interrupting meetings to make executives watch clips of Monty Python, and rejecting a job candidate because he didn’t like their shoes.
Tesla acknowledged that the ramp-up for the Model 3 had been “excruciatingly difficult” for everyone at the firm. But it accused Wired of an “overly-dramatic and sensationalized tale.”
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But in a somewhat joking statement, the company said it wasn’t true that its CEO couldn’t take criticism.
The spokesperson said: “[If] employees really weren’t able to disagree with Elon, rather than ramping Model 3, Tesla would currently be focused on building cyborg dragons, implementing a company-wide policy banning blue shoes, and playing Monty Python videos on a 24-hour loop in all of the break rooms.”
“Cyborg dragons” is a reference to a tweet from Musk from April of this year.
Tesla also acknowledged that it had fired people from its battery plant, the Gigafactory, in 2017. The company said it had let go of people who were “not performing” and were “putting the success of the entire company… at risk.”
In spite of this, it said Musk didn’t go on random firing sprees and that people weren’t afraid to go near his desk.
Tesla said that Musk “doesn’t even have a desk in Gigafactory.”
Musk has previously said that he doesn’t keep a fixed office desk. It is possible that employees were told to avoid whatever desk he had adopted for the moment.
Still, Wired’s reporting tallies with an investigation by Business Insider which found that Tesla employees worked extremely long hours and, in some cases, were scared to go anywhere near Musk.
Here is Tesla’s statement in full:
“It’s no secret that the Model 3 production ramp was excruciatingly difficult for everyone at Tesla. We’ve been open about that since the day we delivered the first vehicles and said we were entering ‘production hell.’ But Wired’s overly-dramatic and sensationalized tale would have you believe that we somehow pulled off this incredible feat – and succeeded in achieving profitability and building a car that no one thought was possible – by suppressing internal debates and randomly firing people for no reason or simply because they disagreed with Elon. That fundamentally does not make sense, as it would literally be impossible for Tesla to still be here if that’s how we operated. After all, if you were to believe the Wired story and employees really weren’t able to disagree with Elon, rather than ramping Model 3, Tesla would currently be focused on building cyborg dragons, implementing a company-wide policy banning blue shoes, and playing Monty Python videos on a 24-hour loop in all of the break rooms…
In order for Tesla to succeed, we must have extremely high standards and work harder and smarter than everyone else. And although it is painful, Elon and the company’s leadership will sometimes take the difficult step of letting people go who are not performing and who are responsible for critical areas of the business, and who as a result, are putting the success of the entire company, including 45,000 people and their families, at risk. This undoubtedly happened at Gigafactory last year when the module line was the number one bottleneck and challenge facing Tesla. But Elon cares very deeply about the people with whom he works – Tesla owes its existence to its employees – and he basically lived in the factory for months working hand-in-hand with them to get production on track (though he doesn’t even have a desk in Gigafactory, contrary to Wired’s reporting). While this piece would make for a compelling dramatic screenplay, it’s certainly not news, since that would require it more accurately reflect reality.”