GLOBAL. Tesla conducting more layoffs, including entire Supercharger team

Just after laying off “more than 10%” of its global workforce, Tesla is laying off even more employees – including senior executives and long-time veterans of the company, most notably the entire Supercharging team and the executive responsible for negotiating NACS adoption across the industry.

Tesla started the week before last with news of a huge round of layoffs.

The layoffs were quite broad across the company. Tesla shortened production shifts at Gigafactory Texas and cleared out several teams associated with critical projects there, even firing important executives.

One of those heads was Drew Baglino, former VP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering, who had been with the company for 18 years and led the 4680 cell project. While his resignation is being publicly portrayed as voluntary, it is speculated that disappointment with progress on the 4680 project had something to do with it.

Tesla also lost key executive Rohan Patel, its head of policy and business development, during the first round of layoffs.

And as we learned last week, the company also fired its entire new ad team.

But when we originally heard about Tesla’s upcoming layoffs, the rumors we heard suggested that the numbers could involve up to 20% of the company’s workforce. We had seen other signals that layoffs might be coming, but the specific tip came from an anonymous source within Tesla who was correct about the layoff’s timing, though not correct about its scale.

Now, more layoffs have been finalized through an email from CEO Elon Musk to executives, first reported by The Information, stating that 6-year veteran Rebecca Tinucci, Tesla’s Senior Director of EV charging, would be leaving the company on Tuesday, along with nearly all of her 500-person charging team (“a few” employees will be reassigned to other teams, according to The Information).

Tinucci was responsible for Tesla’s EV charging business, including Supercharging, which means that the cutting of the Supercharger team may reflect a change in direction for Tesla. Tesla has been very successful at getting manufacturers to adopt its NACS plug – an effort led by Tinucci, which got her onto the TIME 100 Climate list and #2 on Motor Trend’s auto industry power list – leading many to suggest that it will be able to run a profitable energy delivery business for a long time to come (here’s her presentation from Investor Day 2023).

The email states that Tesla will continue to build out some new Superchargers, and will finish those under construction. But relieving the team of its duty may signal a reduction in buildout of the system – at a time when, if anything, faster charging station deployment is needed.

Another executive layoff is 10-year veteran Daniel Ho, Director of Vehicle Programs and New Product Initiatives, who was program manager for the Model S, 3 and Y and had previously served 12 years at Ford in product roles.

In recent quarters, Tesla has guided for a “pause” inbetween growth phases, expecting that sales growth would be more modest until the release of next-gen vehicles like the cheaper “Model 2” and robotaxi products. There has been some back–and–forth over what form those products would take – but laying off the head of New Product Initiatives reflects potential problems within that team as well.

Further, most of former executive Rohan Patel’s public policy team will be eliminated – at a time when many public policy challenges around DC charging, home charging, emissions standards, climate change, and political hostility to superior EV technology are still looming.

Musk said, in his typical bluster, that he wants Tesla to be “absolutely hard core” about headcount reduction, saying that executives whose subordinates “don’t obviously pass the excellent, necessary and trustworthy test” would find themselves relieved of duty as well – suggesting that he wants those executives to fire more employees or be fired themselves.

All of this news comes at a critical time for Tesla, following a quarterly earnings miss in which Tesla significantly missed delivery and earnings estimates, and had a rare year-over-year reduction in sales.

Tesla’s layoffs come at a time when many other companies in the tech industry are laying off staff, in an apparent game of follow-the-leader while industry profits are still high.