Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters
- Tesla blindsided many of its store employees with the announcement last week that it would close stores and shift all sales to online only.
- Three current salespeople and one salesperson who left this week told Business Insider that the mood inside the company is increasingly negative, with one even comparing it to a morgue.
- CEO Elon Musk said in an email to employees last week that "a small number" of stores would remain open as galleries.
- Tesla declined to comment.
Tesla shocked employees last week when it announced it would shift all sales online and close "many" of its retail stores.
One salesperson, away from his assigned store in California at the time, only found out later that evening after reading news reports of the plan.
"Every time there are layoffs, we are notified after the fact," the current employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Business Insider. "It’s a slap in the face. We should have been notified first, we’re the ones building [Elon Musk]’s empire."
That’s just one example of an outpouring of exasperation by Tesla employees, many of whom say they’ve been left in the dark about major business decisions that affect their ability to sell cars and energy systems to would-be customers.
Tesla advisers, as the company calls its salespeople, were taken off of separate energy and car focuses last year, amid the company’s push to post a profit in the third and fourth quarter. Taken out of the field, former energy salespeople told Business Insider that bonuses were drastically changed last year so that individual bonuses were tied to team performance inside the store.
"It’s empty in here right now," another current employee, under the condition of anonymity, said of their assigned store. "This is usually an upbeat place to work, but now it feels like a morgue."
The decision to close stores — many of which in California, New York, Washington D.C. have already closed — might work for cars, the employee said, but energy systems need a more hands-on approach. Home energy systems can take 90 days to install.
"You can test drive a car for seven days, but solar is a full-blown construction project," the employee said.
But even automotive salespeople say they’re still necessary for Tesla to continue to grow.
"Electric cars are too new of a concept to not have a sales force," a former customer experience specialist, who left this week, said. "The worst feeling was opening a store and three months later closing its doors. I’ve never been divorced, but that’s probably the best way I could describe what I felt was happening."
Overall, employees love working for Tesla, even frustrated workers are quick to point out.
"We were working really, really hard because we were doing it for something above ourselves," the current salesperson said. "We were doing it for Tesla and for the mission."
Not only are workers invested morally in Tesla’s mission — some have moved thousands of miles to work for Tesla — but financially, too. Large fractions of many employees’ pay is in the form of restricted stock units, which are shares given to workers on a pre-determined vesting schedule. The ultimate value of shares is dependent on where the company’s stock is trading on the date of maturation.
"You’ve got people who are working their a–es off in jobs they weren’t even hired to do," the employee said of salespeople who pitched in to deliver cars to customers last year. "And Tesla doesn’t give a sh–."
Tesla declined to comment.
- Tesla made a drastic change to its bonus structure before deciding to cut costs by closing stores, salespeople say
- Tesla is reportedly sending hourly employees home early and asking them to take time off as the company cuts costs
- Tesla has reportedly laid off about 8% of its employees since the end of February