Fired Tesla Employee Says Elon Musk Lied About Model 3 Production

Elon Musk Tesla Model 3

Elon Musk says Tesla is currently making 5,000 Model 3 cars a week. Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Tesla investors were relieved when Elon Musk announced at the beginning of this month that the Model 3, which finally reached the pace of making 5,000 units per week, was officially out of its “production hell.” But as Musk vies to further double that rate in just four weeks, one former employee has come forward to say that Musk has been lying about the Model 3 all along.

Martin Tripp, a former Tesla technician who was fired last month and then was sued by the company for stealing sensitive data, filed a formal complaint with the SEC against Tesla over the past weekend, alleging that the electric automaker had misled investors and consumers with omitted and falsified information in previous disclosures.

According to a statement from Meissner Associates, which represents Tripp before the SEC, Tripp alleged that Tesla had inflated the weekly production number of Model 3 cars by as much as 44 percent during his time there. (He was fired on June 19.) In at least one instance, the big board at the Model 3 plant, which counts finished vehicles, kept going on days when production was suspended, Stuart Meissner, Tripp’s lawyer, told Observer.

Tripp also alleged that Tesla had placed batteries with dangerous puncture holes in vehicles during the assembly process, ignored safety standards by placing battery cells too close to one another, and systematically reused parts that were deemed scrap or waste in Model 3 production.

The last allegation is consistent with an earlier revelation about Tesla using refurbished parts in its Model 3 cars.

When Tesla paused the Model 3 production in March, several then and former employees revealed to CNBC that the company had been shipping flawed parts in large amount to its Fremont, Calif. factory for re-work in order to speed up the Model 3 production. An auto industry expert told Observer at the time that reworking parts before a car comes down the assembly line is unusual.

Tesla denied Tripp’s allegations last month when he first made them public. A company spokesperson said that Tripp had “grossly exaggerated” estimates for the scrap being re-worked and that the flawed batteries Tripp might have seen was never used in any vehicles.

Tesla hasn’t responded to the official complaint or a request for comment by Observer.

Shortly after firing Tripp, Tesla sued him for stealing “gigabytes worth of data” from the company, including dozens of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla’s manufacturing system.

According to the lawsuit, filed on June 20 in a U.S. District Court in Nevada, Tesla said that “Tripp admitted to writing software that hacked Tesla’s MOS and to transferring several gigabytes of confidential and proprietary Tesla data to entities outside the company.”

Tripp recently created a Go Fund Me Page to raise $500,000 to cover his defense in the Tesla lawsuit and related expenses. He is currently looking for a defense attorney to represent him in the suit.

Tesla is seeking $1 million in damages in the case.

“This is unusual for a multi-billion-dollar company. To me, this says the lawsuit is really about harassing and sending a message to other employees as opposed to money,” Meissner said.

Meissner represents Tripp in his tip to the SEC, not the Tesla lawsuit.

Fired Tesla Employee Says Elon Musk Lied About Model 3 Production