Exclusive: Tesla CEO threatens firings after dismal China sales - sources

Tue Feb 10, 2015 4:55pm EST
 
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By Laurence Frost and Paul Lienert

PARIS/DETROIT (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O: Quote) Chief Executive Elon Musk is prepared to fire overseas executives, people with knowledge of the matter said, after weak Chinese sales of the company's luxury electric cars cast doubt on his ambitious global expansion plans.

Tesla sold about 120 cars in China last month, one of the sources told Reuters, well below the company's aggressive targets. Musk has previously said he expected China sales could rival those in the United States as early as 2015.

Two top China managers left the company in 2014, Tesla said last year.

The sources, who spoke to Reuters over the past two weeks, were not willing to speak for attribution because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Tesla shares slumped 7 percent on Jan. 13 after Musk said China sales were "unexpectedly weak" during the fourth quarter. "We'll fix the China issue and be in pretty good shape probably in the middle of the year," Musk added at the time.

He was more blunt in an internal email to managers in late January, threatening to fire or demote country managers if they are "not on a clear path to positive long-term cash flow," according to two people who have seen the email.

Reuters did not see the original email but was provided a transcript by one of the sources.

Tesla did not have an immediate comment on Tuesday.   Continued...

 
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk talks at the Automotive World News Congress at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook