Automobile

Tesla fans urge Elon Musk to revive PR team after weekend of layoff confusion

Musk himself clarified Tesla’s position over the weekend, discounting a net reduction in global headcount. But the damage to the stock price, and the company’s credibility communicating with its own shareholders, was done.

“Competition among the media is the invisible hand that will get out the truth,” wrote Black, who is bullish on the automaker. “Fanboys can’t cry foul if there’s no effort by TSLA.”

Markets were already jittery early last week when Bloomberg reported on an email to staff by Musk ordering remote workers back to the office.

After the report, Musk was asked on Twitter about people who think the in-office worker is antiquated. “They should pretend to work somewhere else,” Musk wrote on Tuesday.

That brought speculation that Musk was planning staff reductions by encouraging some salaried employees, which excludes hourly workers on the production line, to leave.

And then on Friday, Reuters reported that Musk had sent an email to executives expressing a “super bad feeling” about the economy and suggesting the need to cut global staff 10 percent.

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, who is widely followed by Tesla investors, suggested Musk’s email had broader meaning for the industry.

“If the world’s largest EV company warns on jobs and the economy, investors should reconsider their forecasts on margins and top-line growth,” Jonas wrote in a research note.

On Friday, Tesla’s stock price fell 9.2 percent compared with 2.5 percent for the Nasdaq Composite index.

But by Saturday, Musk was discounting any big staff changes. “Total headcount will increase, but salaried should be fairly flat.”

Financial analysts said that made more sense, since the automaker is ramping up a new plant in Berlin, a new plant in Austin and a big expansion at its Shanghai factory.

“Good to see Elon walking back comments,” said Dan Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities, in a post on Twitter. “Now move forward.”

By Sunday, the Tesla staffing story had come full circle.

Musk declared as “accurate” a headline in a Tesla fan publication, Tesmanian, that read “Tesla Optimizes Operations by Adjusting the Hiring & Layoff of Employees.” That language, some observers of Twitter pointed out, sounds like a press release that could have been issued by Tesla days earlier.

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