Updated Apr 30, 2024 - Business

"Everyone is in complete shock": Tesla cuts Supercharger employees

EV charging stations in a parking lot

Tesla cars recharge at a Tesla Supercharger station in Santa Monica, California, on April 17. Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Tesla is laying off the workers in its Supercharger division, calling into question the direction of the company's charging strategy at a time when EV advocates say further expansion is needed.

Why it matters: CEO Elon Musk has long described the company's Superchargers — the world's largest EV charging network with more than 50,000 plugs — as a competitive advantage and key to EV sales growth.

Driving the news: The company laid off EV charging boss Rebecca Tinucci and substantially all of her 500-person team, a person familiar with the cuts confirmed to Axios.

  • "Everyone is in complete shock," the source tells Axios.
  • The Information and EV enthusiast site Electrek first reported the cuts, citing internal communications.
  • Musk and other Tesla officials did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Context: Tesla has been cutting workers in droves this month, having already announced a move to slash more than 10% of its workforce.

  • "The way to think about it is any tree which grows, it needs pruning," CFO Vaibhav Taneja said last week on an earnings call. "This is the pruning exercise which we went through."
  • "We're not giving up anything that is significant that I'm aware of," Musk added, saying Tesla had become too inefficient and that "it is time to reorganize the company for the next phase of growth."

The intrigue: A slew of automakers recently struck deals with Tesla to allow their EVs to charge on the company's network, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Rivian and Volvo.

  • They were left in the dark on these cuts: "It was news to us when we read it online," Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin tells Axios in an email, saying "we're trying to gain more insight."
  • GM is concerned that the cuts could hurt the customer experience, a person with knowledge of the company's deliberations said.
  • "Ford's plans for our customers do not change," Ford spokesperson Marty Günsberg said in an email to Axios.

Threat level: "It's standard-issue Elon," Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, tells Axios, noting that Musk cut jobs quickly after acquiring Twitter.

  • But that doesn't mean it'll compromise the company's charging prospects, Brauer added.
  • "I think it's one of the most high-potential long-term parts of the business model that he's got," Brauer said. "The idea that he would threaten or risk it is ludicrous to me, which probably means he's not doing that."

What we're watching: Musk reportedly said in his internal email that Tesla will continue to build some new Superchargers and will complete those already under construction.

  • The Supercharger team was handling logistics leading up to the installation of the units, with that last process handled by third-party contractors.
  • Brauer speculated that Musk may believe Tesla doesn't need many workers now that the design and engineering phase of the network buildout is largely complete: "It's just inconceivable that he would derail one of his most promising long-term revenue models."

The bottom line: Access to charging is widely seen as critical to promoting the adoption of EVs.

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