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Elon Musk axed the entire Tesla Supercharger team after their division chief defied orders and said no to more layoffs

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The billionaire said in an email to staff on April 29 that he was dissolving the entire team behind Tesla’s charging infrastructure, per The Information. Musk has since walked back this decision and rehired some of the workers, per Bloomberg.

Musk did a one-on-one meeting with Supercharger chief Rebecca Tinucci the day before the email went out, Reuters reported, citing four individuals familiar with the matter.

According to the outlet, Musk axed Tinucci’s entire team because she didn’t want to lay off more employees. Tinucci had already laid off around 15% to 20% of her team before meeting Musk, per Reuters.

Representatives for Tesla, Musk, and Tinucci didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Last month, Musk announced Tesla’s first round of mass layoffs for the year, telling staff in a memo that he was laying off more than 10% of employees. Tesla employed more than 140,000 staff before the layoffs.

The widespread job cuts came as the company grapples with poor sales and increased competition from Chinese automakers like BYD.

At one point, Musk was considering culling Tesla’s workforce by 20% to match the most recent reduction in quarterly vehicle deliveries, Bloomberg reported on April 21, citing a person familiar with the matter.

When Musk announced the Supercharger team’s dissolution last month, he added that he would start asking Tesla executives who retain “more than three people who don’t obviously pass the excellent, necessary and trustworthy test” to resign, per an email obtained by The Information.

“Hopefully these actions are making it clear that we need to be absolutely hard core about headcount and cost reduction,” Musk wrote.

But that “hard core” move resulted in some immediate problems.

Major automakers who adopted Tesla’s charging tech, such as General Motors, Ford, and Mercedes Benz, were left hanging with the sudden elimination of the Supercharger division.

Tesla’s investors and partners also criticized the sudden move, upset with the company’s radio silence following the Supercharger team’s dismissal.

“There’s no one remaining from the team that we worked with. In terms of formal communication from Tesla, we haven’t received anything,” Aaron Luque, the CEO EnviroSpark, which installs Tesla chargers, told BI.

The ensuing backlash might have been crucial in changing Musk’s mind. The Tesla chief moved quickly to assuage concerns, and assured investors that Tesla’s Supercharger network isn’t going anywhere.

“Tesla still plans to grow the Supercharger network, just at a slower pace for new locations and more focus on 100% uptime and expansion of existing locations,” he wrote in an X post on April 30.

Musk’s about-turn could also have been influenced by Tesla’s commitments to the US government.

The company won almost 13% of all EV charging awards from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, Politico reported in February, citing data it reviewed. A slowdown in the rollout of Tesla’s charging infrastructure would thus be a setback for Biden’s clean-energy agenda.

“Just to reiterate: Tesla will spend well over $500M expanding our Supercharger network to create thousands of NEW chargers this year,” Musk said in an X post on Friday.

Representatives for Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from BI sent outside regular business hours.

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