Tesla Plant Hit by Fire, Sabotage Weeks Before Model 3 Deadline

The Tesla plant in Fremont, California was hit with two major problems over the weekend, leaked emails from CEO Elon Musk detail. One problem had to do with an employee making code changes to its software and another had to do with a literal fire at the Bay Area plant that’s expected to be on track to produce 5,000 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the month.

Emails from Tesla CEO Elon Musk to employees shared with CNBC shine a light on two situations at the plant: The first email, sent from Musk Sunday to employees, explains that one employee made code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System, using fake logins and sent large amounts of company data to a third party. In the memo, he describes that the employee was upset he did not receive a promotion. Musk later sent a second email Monday to Tesla employees about a fire in the factory. He wrote that the fire on the production line was “strange” and shut down the line for several hours. The email mentioned there were “no injuries or significant equipment damage.”

Elon Musk gives Tesla shareholders an update on progress for the long-awaited Model 3, the electric car that saw delays in production due to automation errors. The car starts at $35,000 and initially more than 325,000 people put down a $1,000 reservation for the car. Tesla was supposed to achieve a production rate of 5,000 cars a week by the end of December, but at the meeting on June 5, Musk said it would hit that goal by June 30.

Musk did not name the disgruntled employee in the email or who received the data, but there will be an investigation of the matter this week. His memo also pointed out how there are multiple organizations that “want Tesla to die,” which included Wall Street short-sellers, along with oil and gas companies. He brought up how short-sellers have “lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lore more,” and oil and gas companies are not “super nice.” Musk asked employees to be “vigilant” as the company tries to reach its goal of 5,000 Model 3s produced in a week, which he said would happen by the end of June.

As for the fire, Musk said the fire was “hard to explain” and quoted Intel founder Andy Grove: “Only the paranoid survive,” adding, “Please be on the alert for anything that’s not in the best interests of our company.” The fire occurred at the body-in-white (BIW) production line. The BIW is a stage in the line when the body of the car is put together and before other parts of the vehicle are added like an engine, chassis trim, and then painted.

Musk has yet to publicly comment on either incident, as of 8:23 p.m. Eastern on Monday. As inferred in the emails, he’s determined to get Tesla on track to produce the 5,000 Model 3s by the end of June.

To help with its production, a new line was created outside of the Fremont plant in a tent. It’s in this new staging area that the first Tesla Model 3 performance editions rolled off the line.

Media via Tesla