It’s been a “very tough quarter,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk told employees in an e-mail alert sent during the weekend. In the digital missive, Musk asked Tesla workers to “rally hard to recover.”
“This has been a very tough quarter, primarily due to supply chain and production challenges in China,” the South African-born executive wrote in an e-mail first published by Electrek, “so we need to rally hard to recover!”
Until now, the leader of the battery-car segment had been defying gravity, global says growing, along with earnings, despite the ongoing semiconductor shortage and other challenges that have slammed the rest of the auto industry.
Plenty of headaches
But Tesla is suddenly facing a variety of challenges. Based on the Musk e-mail, it appears that sales are slowing, even as the carmaker faces the same chip shortages and rising materials costs as the rest of the industry.
Then there’s the COVID pandemic, which Musk has frequently downplayed. A resurgence of the pandemic led Chinese authorities to order an extended lockdown in Shanghai, a move that caused a lengthy closure of the Tesla Gigafactory there.
Compounding Tesla’s problems, CEO Musk has come under fire for a variety of reasons, starting with his $47 billion bid to acquire Twitter — which now faces an uncertain outcome. Musk’s increasingly politicized posts have generated significant criticism, notably from environmentalists, LGBTQ activists and others on the left side of the spectrum who’ve traditionally made up the bulk of Tesla buyers.
NHTSA could order massive recall
And while it is far from certain what the outcome will be, Tesla has faced increasing scrutiny from federal regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been probing a variety of different issues potentially linked to Tesla’s Autopilot system, including vehicles that unexpectedly brake for no reason, and others that have hit parked emergency vehicles. The lack of a driver monitoring system for use with Autopilot has raised additional concerns among regulators and safety advocates.
There have been reports in recent days suggesting NHTSA could order the recall of as many as 800,000 Tesla vehicles.
“We *actually* build great, real products that people love and make their lives and the world better,” Musk said in his e-mail. “That is so profound. It is an honest day’s work that you can feel in your heart. Whatever else is going on in this messed-up world, know that at least what you are doing is pure goodness and that I have infinitely more respect and admiration for you than the richest person on Wall St.”
The richest man in America wants workers to help out
The irony is that Musk was ranked the richest man in America, if not the world, earlier this year, largely due to a lucrative contract he signed with Tesla that regularly rewards him with billions in stock if the carmaker hits sales, earnings and other targets.
This isn’t the first time Musk has asked Tesla employees to “rally” for the company. In fact, he’s reached out on a number of occasions, especially when the automaker needs a boost in production to meet an end-of-quarter sales target.
But this time, the CEO could find some pushback. Musk has taken aim at workers several times lately, warning early this month that Tesla might have to cut back its workforce because of the slowing economic environment.
Changing plans leave workers in limbo
“Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10% as we have become overstaffed in many areas,” he wrote on June 3. “Note this does not apply to anyone actually building cars, battery packs or installing solar. Hourly headcount will increase.”
But just three days later, however, Musk reversed course and indicated there was no need for job reductions. But Musk also has told employees who’ve been working from home for the past two years that he soon expects them back in the office.
“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla,” he wrote in a pair of e-mails sent to employees. “If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”
Investors grow nervous
Wall Street has not been impressed by what has gone at Tesla lately. After hitting an all-time high of $1,243.49 on Nov. 4, 2021, Tesla shares have fallen sharply. The stock opened at $654.86 on Tuesday morning but, as of late, trading appeared likely to make little to no gains by the end of the day.
Tesla management appears to still be moving be forward with plans for a three-for-one stock split. Shareholders would be asked to approve that move at their annual meeting on Aug. 4.