Tesla production line was ‘sabotaged’, Elon Musk tells employees to be ‘on alert’

As we reported last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears more confident than ever about meeting the automaker’s goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by the end of the quarter.

But there are still plenty of things that can go wrong with over 10,000 parts all converging in Fremont to make a single vehicle.

Now Tesla apparently has to add sabotage to the list of things that can go wrong as an employee maliciously changed the software of the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System and stole data.

Musk wrote in an email to employees today:

“Subject: Some Concerning News

I was dismayed to learned this weekend about a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations. This includes making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.

The full extent of his actions are not yet clear, but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad. His motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive. In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move.

However, there may be considerably more to this situation than meets the eye, so the investigation will continue in depth this week. We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations.

As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die. These include Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lot more. Then there are the oil & gas companies, the wealthiest industries in the world – they don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power & electric cars. Don’t want to blow your mind, but rumor has it that those companies are sometimes not super nice. Then there are the multitude of big gas/diesel car company competitors. If they’re willing to cheat so much about emissions, maybe they’re willing to cheat in other ways?

Most of the time, when there’s theft of goods, of leaking confidential information, dereliction of duty or outright sabotage, the reason really is something simple like wanting to get back at someone within the company or at the company as a whole. Occasionally, it is much more serious.

Please be extremely vigilant, particularly over the next few weeks as we ramp up the production rate to 5k/week. This is the strongest motivation to stop us.

If you know of, see or suspect anything suspicious, please send a note to REDACTED with as much information as possible. This can be done in your name, which will be kept confidential, or completely anonymous.

Looking forward to having a great week with you as we charge up the super exciting ramp to 5000 Model 3 cars per week!

Thanks for working so hard to make Tesla successful,


It wouldn’t be the first time that Tesla had issues with other entities trying to interfere directly with Tesla and try to steal information.

In 2016, an oil exec impersonated Musk in emails to get information about Tesla from other executives.

In another email today, Musk also talked about another suspicious incident at the factory.

He admitted that he might just be paranoid, but he still asked employees to be “on alert”:

“Late last night we had another strange incident that was hard to explain. Small fire on the body-in-white production line. No one was in the area and there were no injuries or significant equipment damage, but it was enough to stop the body production line for several hours.

It could be just a random event, but as Andy Grove said, “Only the paranoid survive.” Please be on alert for anything that’s not in the best interests of our company. If you aren’t getting a response from the REDACTED email please send me a note directly.


Musk has often expressed concerns about attacks from the people having interest in seeing Tesla fail, but his concerns were mostly about propaganda.

He once said ‘people have to revolt against the propaganda of the fossil fuel industry which is unrelenting and enormous’.

Electrek’s Take

Musk’s concerns were proven right to a certain degree since he has been the subject of well-financed smear campaigns before, but sabotage would be a whole new level.

There were other examples of vandalism over the years like when a Tesla Supercharger was sabotaged and Tesla vehicles were set on fire in an apparent act of anti-EV vandalism, but we never knew who was behind the incidents.

In this case, it’s not even confirmed that any other party other than the employee was involved so I wouldn’t jump the gun and say that it is a ploy from the fossil fuel industry.

But it’s still a worrying situation either way. We will keep you updated if we learn more.

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