Tesla Employee Reportedly Sabotaged Production Line, Reads Leaked Musk Memo

After being denied a promotion, a disgruntled employee reportedly turned saboteur.

Tesla Motor Co's Plant As Production Of The Model S Speeds Up
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

A disgruntled employee may have intentionally caused harm to Tesla's production line though malicious sabotage, a leaked memo delivered to CNBC reads. 

CEO Elon Musk reportedly delivered the statement to Tesla employees via email after previously notifying the employees that production was shut down for a short time due to a possibly unrelated small factory fire.

In the company-wide email titled "some concerning news," Musk revealed that one of his employees became disgruntled over an internal company decision, prompting his malintent. The employee reportedly impersonated other users when accessing parts of the system and programmed changes into core Tesla applications which were deemed to be damaging. Additionally, Musk mentioned that the employee had also provided "highly sensitive" Tesla data to third parties, but did not identify any of the recipients by name. It is not clear what the employee's role in the company was, or how the employee gained access to other accounts.

"I was dismayed to learn this weekend about a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations," Musk's memo reportedly read, "This included 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 email was sent to Tesla employees after a small factory fire had occurred in the welding area of the Tesla assembly line. It's unclear whether the two events are related, however they seem to have occurred within a small window of time.

Tesla is still investigating the full extent of his actions, however, the email made it clear that what the company did know about the employee's actions thus far made them "pretty bad". The leaked email continues to mention that the employee's intentions were (at the time) unknown, but his motivation for the behavior was clear. The employee was reportedly seeking a promotion within the company but did not receive it, something which in hindsight is described to be "definitely the right move" in Musk's company-wide email.

Despite Tesla overcoming some major production hurdles over the past several months regarding its Model 3, such as opening a brand new manufacturing line in just three weeks, the company is still under scrutiny by critics, something which Musk touches on heavily in the email.

"As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die," the tirade begins, "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 industry 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?"

A case for Musk's skepticism of the employee acting alone could certainly be made. The company has been plagued by short-sellers on Wall Street, nay-saying enthusiasts that spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) over the company's future, and other automakers who would certainly be envious of the automaker's intellectual property.

Nevertheless, the employee could also be disgruntled over the recent decision to restructure the company. Last week, Tesla announced that it would be making changes to its salaried workforce that would cut nearly 9 percent of the automaker's staff. There was no mention made of whether this particular employee was included in these job cuts, or whether there was any sort of outside-influenced financial incentive to the vindictive actions.            

A Tesla spokesperson declined to comment.