Elon Musk Says He Will Boost Pay For Tesla A.I. Engineers Amid ‘Craziest Talent War’

Musk said companies like OpenAI "have been aggressively recruiting Tesla engineers with massive compensation offers."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk
Elon Musk hasn’t collected a cash salary from Tesla since 2020. Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images

Tesla (TSLA) is currently going through a down cycle in business, but CEO Elon Musk said he’s going to increase compensation for the electric carmaker’s artificial intelligence engineers amid what he calls the “craziest talent war.”

Sign Up For Our Daily Newsletter

By clicking submit, you agree to our <a rel="noreferrer" href="http://observermedia.com/terms">terms of service</a> and acknowledge we may use your information to send you emails, product samples, and promotions on this website and other properties. You can opt out anytime.

See all of our newsletters

In a series of X posts yesterday (April 3), Musk said companies like OpenAIhave been aggressively recruiting Tesla engineers with massive compensation offers and have unfortunately been successful in a few cases.” In light of the competition, Musk said that “Tesla is increasing comp (contingent on progress milestones)” for the company’s A.I. engineering team.

Musk’s posts were in response to a report by The Information that Ethan Knight, a machine learning scientist on Tesla’s Autopilot team, had left to join Musk’s A.I. startup, xAI.

“Ethan was going to join OpenAI, so it was either xAI or them,” Musk said in a post. He added that Tesla’s A.I. team, which develops technologies for Tesla’s autonomous driving capabilities, has more than 200 engineers. “Tesla’s pace of progress with autonomy is accelerating. The talent war for AI is the craziest talent war I’ve ever seen!” The CEO said.

Tesla provides lower base salaries than most Big Tech companies, according to data from job sites Levels and Glassdoor. (According to a 2021 post on Team Blind, an anonymous social networking site for verified tech workers, Tesla’s Autopilot team pays an entry-level engineer in the San Francisco Bay area between $160,000 and $170,000, which another user said was “ridiculously low for the level of skill it requires.”) Amid the A.I. boom, tech companies are offering million-dollar annual compensation packages to attract top talent, making Tesla even more vulnerable.

The medium total annual compensation for Tesla employees was $34,084 in 2022, the most recent year with available data, according to Tesla’s 2023 proxy filing. Musk himself hasn’t received a cash salary as Tesla CEO since 2020. But his stock options are worth billions and have drawn regulatory scrutiny.


Elon Musk Says He Will Boost Pay For Tesla A.I. Engineers Amid ‘Craziest Talent War’