Did Tesla Really Lay Off The Whole Supercharger Team? Really??

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Update: As a reader has shared, here’s Elon Musk’s tweet on the news, confirming the layoffs and providing some information on a shift in Tesla’s strategy:

According to a recent report by Electrek that repeated paywalled reporting by The Information, Tesla has conducted another round of layoffs, this time getting rid of the entire Supercharger team. Without further confirmation from a company that notoriously maintains no press contacts (and may automatically send you a poop emoji if you email them with a question), we can’t relay this reporting as fact just yet. But it merits some discussion.

What The Information and Electrek Reported

We’ve already reported on Tesla’s other recent layoffs. Those are confirmed, and nobody’s denying that 10% of the workforce was dismissed. Among those who departed the company were Rohan Patel, the head of policy and a former Obama administration official, and Drew Baglino, head of powertrain and energy engineering. The company also fired the whole advertising team, a division that had not been set up for very long.

But there were rumors that the carnage wasn’t over. Some were saying that up to 20% of the workforce could get the axe (in total).

The scale of the layoffs hasn’t yet reached rumored levels, but according to an Elon Musk email anonymously supplied to The Information, the company did conduct another round of layoffs recently. If the email is real, the layoffs aren’t over yet, and have already hit some key teams.

First off, the biggest news in the alleged email was that either most of, or the entire Supercharger team had been laid off, along with its leader, Rebecca Tinucci. In whole, the team included 500 people. This seems very strange because Tinucci led the company’s successful effort to bring NACS charging to other companies, and she had even been given a slot in the TIME 100 climate list due to this work!

The email (if real) says that Tesla’s Supercharging effort won’t be stalled out due to these layoffs. New Superchargers are supposed to still happen, and those under construction will be finished. Whether this would actually slow things down? Who knows.

Other firings/layoffs include other executives and teams. Rohan Patel left during the initial round of layoffs, and now his entire public policy team has reportedly been eliminated. Also, Daniel Ho, leader of Vehicle Programs and New Product Initiatives, is reportedly out. Both of these teams seem to be very essential.

The alleged email goes on to say that further layoffs are necessary and that they need to be “hard core.” In it, Musk says that any manager who doesn’t do sufficient layoffs in order to only keep “excellent, necessary, and trustworthy” employees will themselves be relieved.

Why This Is Nonsensical & May Be Bogus

Like Electrek‘s writer, I don’t think this announcement (assuming it’s real, of course) makes a lick of sense. When I first read about it, my first reaction was to release a short string of expletives into the room, confusing family members who were glad to hear I wasn’t upset about anything that affects us personally.

Here’s the thing: Tesla has, hands down, the best charging experience in the industry. As much as I personally don’t like some things Elon Musk says and does, it would be foolish to dispute this. There are more chargers in more places providing better reliability right now than anybody else is close to providing. And the proof is in the pudding, with other manufacturers having reluctantly been forced to join the Supercharger network or die.

How could a team that has done excellent work like this deserve to be handed swords for figurative seppuku? I can’t answer that. The only possible issue was that other companies beyond Ford and Rivian weren’t given access as fast as Musk would have liked, but that’s purely wild speculation. We have no idea what the reasoning was for this move, assuming there was any.

The same is true for other teams, like the public policy team. Tesla’s facing some severe challenges in that area, and it needs seasoned and experienced people to deal with those.

So, absent some real confirmation from more sources, CleanTechnica cannot report this as fact yet. It’s just too outlandish to 100% believe at this point. I hope we find out in the coming days that it was a prank or something.

But, It Might Be True

This is the part where I depart from reporting and analysis and delve into speculation and opinion. If you’re not a fan of speculation and opinion, feel free to click the back button or check out some of our other articles. You’ve been fairly warned. Or, feel free to roast me in the comments if that makes you feel better!

Sadly, we’ve seen Elon Musk do things that don’t make a lot of sense, especially when he says something needs to be “hard core” like this alleged letter says. The worst example was a cease and desist letter we got from Tesla, after I had reported on some problems Tesla owners were having with GIECO insurance. Instead of seeing that I was standing up for Tesla drivers and the company itself, Musk’s “hard core” team of lawyers misunderstood the article as an attack on Tesla, and responded threatening to sue.

So, yes, when I see that Elon wants to be “hard core,” I tend to interpret that as “I’m going off half cocked.”

So, while I hope that the email was a prank and that Tesla didn’t lay off key teams at the worst time so that the company could do something “hard core,” it’s not completely outside of the realm of possibility that the company (led by its Technoprince) would do something this boneheaded.

While many people think I don’t like Tesla, that’s not really true. I want the company to continue to succeed. If it weren’t for Tesla, we wouldn’t be seeing the rest of the industry being pushed toward electrification (even if some automakers will basically just go hybrid for now). The status quo was working out for the automotive industry, and it needed the kick in the crotch that Tesla delivered.

A company that makes bad HR moves, that makes everyone feel like they work for Darth Vader and could be choked at any time, and that earns bad will from the public can’t succeed in the long run, or won’t succeed as much as it could have. But, the myth that companies have to regularly kill people’s dreams and “cut the fat” is sticky because it fits in well with our cultural myths about work in the United States. It’s just not supported by the evidence.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Videos

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1984 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba