Bittersweet Symphony…


Bob was terminated from Tesla Motors on Tuesday after more than four years there- the longest tenure among the current employees in the entire service division of the company. No warning, cause, or explanation. Effective immediately.

Between the two of us, we’ve been close to Tesla and its people in a variety of ways since a tiny group in a San Carlos shop converted a Lotus- so to say we’re stunned doesn’t begin to cut it. It just doesn’t make sense, particularly on the eve of such a crucial product launch.

Processing it all is bittersweet – punctuated by disbelief, intense disappointment, even gallows humor (was he “bricked” or “overly discharged”?) Sadly, that we’re hardly the first to go through this with Tesla makes it seem both better and worse.

But we’re grateful too, for the colleagues and drivers who’ve become friends over the years and who’ve shown their support this week. In some cases we’ve been surprised to see precisely who those people are (and aren’t), and we appreciate you.

And because this was so incredibly unexpected, we’re not sure what will come next. I intend to keep doing what I do, and Bob hopes to continue working with plug-in vehicles, though admittedly there are pragmatic aspects to consider.

More to say in time, no doubt. Until then – to those who know who they are, thank you.

chelsea and Bob

56 thoughts on “Bittersweet Symphony…

  1. Wow, that’s crazy. So sorry to hear this Chelsea. As much as I’m rooting for Tesla is seems like things like this happen with alarming frequency over there. Very unfortunate.

  2. Very sorry to hear this news Chelsea, Nikki just told me. A real kick in the teeth when all I am hearing in the UK about Tesla is good news. I really hope Bob finds gainful employment soon and that it involves wires, batteries and tires

  3. I know we chatted briefly about this, but I wanted to lend my support here too. It’s sad news indeed and the lack of a reason is just frustrating. Know that you have a community of friends and colleagues that are here to support you. Wishing you and Bob the best with this unexpected change.

  4. Sucks BIG time. I like Tesla, but when I hear about things like this my like is tempered! Best of luck to you and Bob!

  5. I enjoyed meeting Bob at the LA Tesla store a couple of years ago. Sorry to hear. As much as I like their products, I really don’t think I’d enjoy working there.

  6. I am not a lawyer (and don’t play one on TV), but if I understand employment law, to terminate a manager’s position without “warning, cause, or explanation” suggests that there is a problem with the company –not the person– and thus the need to “downsize” to stay solvent.

    Those who hold reservations for a Model S might want to take note. To sever ties like this with Bob (the service manager for their most successful store) –and, by default, with Chelsea (the undisputed Poster Girl of the EV movement)– does not bode well for what is going on behind closed doors.

    IMHO, something smells rotten in Denmusk.

    1. Wow…now that’s an idiotic response. Company solvency by firing 1 person? Don’t stir the pot if you don’t know the recipe. I’m just as sorry to see Bob go, but the future of a tesla does not hinge on one employee. Chels, do you Pre-screen your followers? This person needs to get a clue…

      1. Sigh…. so… did Tesla, in fact, have a justifiable reason for “firing 1 person”? But used “let go” instead to sidestep giving that reason? Even though it was a misuse of the term according to CA employment law? Either way… the company comes off badly, in my humble opinion. And I would be most curious to know what you think that justifiable reason was.

        I might suggest, by the way, that you please try to refrain from using phrases like “idiotic,” and “needs to get a clue” when referring to others. There is no reason to attack the messenger because you disagree with the message.

      2. Vanna, I can’t imagine pre-screening my followers but if I did, those who referred to others’ comments as “idiotic” would probably attract my attention first… 🙂

        I agree that Bob’s termination isn’t indicative of the solvency of the company, especially as a replacement has been on board for weeks. (Although, yanquetino is not the first or only one to have suspected something like that.)

        It does, however, speak volumes about the company’s culture.

  7. Chels

    If there’s anything we can do here in the U.K., please let me know. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve both been given this bad news 😦

    As I’m sure others will say, I know Bob will be snapped up by someone else in the plug-in world. You guys are both well respected and loved.

    NIkki, Kate and the kids.

  8. Bob (Chels),

    Sorry to hear about this and corporate BS.

    Don’t worry (easier said than done) – you are one of the most experienced in your field, I expect good opportunities will present themselves very soon.

    Hang in there and let me know if I can help.

  9. There’s plenty of opportunity out there and I have no doubt that Bob will prevail (he’s good like that). Tesla wlll soon discover exactly how hard good help is to find.

  10. Does anyone there have even a basic knowledge of HR ? I’m sorry, unless you’re confronting someone with proof of theft or major misconduct no employee should be treated this way. But without cause and with no explanation to someone in Bob’s position, and with his experience with the company ? Cowardly. Just wrong.

    Grant yourselves some time to re-calibrate, then turn the page. Know that a lot of folks have your backs.

    Tesla has a lot to learn. A car is not a smartphone, a router or some other piece of throwaway tech. When a car breaks or disappoints it has to be fixed, and things have to be made right. Success or failure turns on how problems are solved, on how customers with problems, and problem customers, are treated. Success or failure turns on service people.

  11. What Yanquetino said a few posts above.

    And as you say Chels, “It just doesn’t make sense, particularly on the eve of such a crucial product launch.” Reinforced by Yanquetino’s observation, “Those who hold reservations for a Model S might want to take note. . . . does not bode well for what is going on behind closed doors.”

    Tesla Motors’ shareholders should be taking note as well!

  12. Sucky!!! Good luck with what ever comes next! Plug-ins are rapidly expanding and Bob is awesome so I’m sure he will have no trouble finding something. if I can help in any way please don’t hesitate to reach out!

  13. This is such stunning, surprising news! I always had absolute confidence that my roadster couldn’t be in better hands when I left the car in Bob’s hands at the L.A. store. What I really don’t get is that this firing happened without reason or warning. It may be hard to imagine where the career path is leading right now, but know you are headed to a wonderful, new opportunity with the whole EV community solidly behind you.

  14. Jeebus on a Cracker. I have gleaned from various tweets that, when Chelsea and Bob stopped by the Tesla store to pick up his own tools this afternoon, they were not allowed on the premises until three security goons showed up as “escorts”!

    Now that really does add insult to injury. As if the Consulting Producer who facilitated Tesla’s role in “Revenge of the Electric Car” could not be trusted in the building without bouncers flanking their every move. Methinks Chris Paine should now produce a Director’s Cut of the film that substitutes the Tesla scenes with the footage he took of Mitsubishi instead. The irony is thicker than molasses in Alaska.

    How can Tesla not be ashamed?

    1. It’s true that we weren’t allowed into the building (not even to wait) until the designated employee arrived to shadow us on every step. Two more ended up joining him, so it was quite the party!

      It’s not uncommon for someone to supervise the removal of an employee’s belongings, but the way this was executed was definitely over the top for the circumstances. Mostly it just made me sad. You’d never know that these were the same people who’d get together for Rockband night, that I baked for on a regular basis just because, that the boy adored being around…. It’s the basic lack of humanity in this process that has been the most surprising to me. Shouldn’t be, but it is.

  15. Bob is the coolest guy in service! Maybe there will be a non Tesla shop we can take our Roadsters to. “Bob’s EV shop”.

  16. So, is this a recurring phenomenon in Tesla, sacking employees whom they feel they have outgrown (?) and do you think this is a Tesla unique problem, or is it an Elon Musk attribute or is it a silicon valley culture thing?

    I am sad to read you inference that this happens fairly often. Many of us are very strong;y supporting Tesla in the community (such as on the Electric Vehicle Group, where we are constantly fending off attacks form Anti-EV posters, and one real **** in particular,

    We pray for their success as a new vanguard of alternative technology mobility and a successful David versus Goliath struggle outcome, And so of course we would also hope that there is a high minded attitude of employee appreciation and two way loyalty…..sort of environmental responsibility + social responsibility for the better future of mankind..

  17. After watching Revenge of the Electric Car, I started looking closer at both Tesla and SpaceX. As a former business owner, I could identify all of the mistakes that Elon was making since I made many of the same ones on a much smaller scale. One of the earliest things I learned was to keep good relations with employees. Elon is making a mess of both his companies. I have heard numerous stories from former employees. It’s going to bite him sooner rather than later.

    Bob sounds like he is good person that really knows his stuff from the previous posts. I’m sure he can land a good job with another car company producing EV’s. There are lots of them now and they all need competent service staff.

    If Telsa Motors hasn’t paid him his final check including any unused PTO, they have 24 hours from the date they terminated him to pay up. The penalties mount pretty fast. That’s one calendar day, not “business” day. Penalties are also figured by calendar days including weekends and holidays.

    Is trying to build cars in the Silicon Valley a sign of mental disorder? At one time I considered applying at Tesla Motors. I looked at the cost of living in the area and figured that they probably wouldn’t be paying engineers $150,000/year to start which is what I would require to live up there and maintain the same standard of living I have now.

    Good Luck Bob and Chelsea

    1. This is a common theme at both Tesla and SpaceX. At Tesla it started on December 7. 2007.

      I know that Bob will find another great position.

      What Tesla has not realized in all of this is the loss of very knowledgeable and strong business people.

      Tesla definatley pushes the boundries of at-will employment.

  18. Very sorry to hear this, but it sounds like business as usual for a Musk operation. Don’t like the guy, never will.

  19. Bob given your pioneering experience and your reputation for honesty in the EV community, we all know you will find that better job. And judging by the outpouring of support from the EV community, Tesla’s loss will be some lucky EV company’s gain.

  20. I am so sorry, Chelsea, for you and Bob- all the adjectives apply- not fair, cold, insensistive, not smart. Like others, my estimate of Tesla has dropped faster than their stock price will on bad news. This is the short-sighted way to run a business, and frankly, Bob is better off elsewhere, in the long run, if this is how Tesla conducts business. I understand having to lay off workers- but to do so without cause or courtesy reeks of both corporate and personal cowardice. These types of companies usually pay for it in the long run.

    I can relate some- my own job has been very stable, but the wifey has been unemployed for over 3 years now- tough economy and her age (younger than me!) make it a mountain. But Bob is younger than we are and has unique skills- I’m sure he’ll land on his feet sooner rather than later, and hope it is in the EV space.

    Keep your chins up, and we’ll say a small prayer for y’all! And a shared, happy Father’s Day to Bob- forget this for today, pop in a Disney movie and enjoy your kids- before too long they’ll be teenagers;-)

  21. Is Bobs termination Tesla’s way of preventing pillow talk between its Service Dept and an outspoken EV marketing expert, advocate, and reporter?

    Is Tesla expecting service problems that they want to keep away from the EV community, aka the public? Or did Tesla just not like the way Bob parted his hair. 🙂

    Does Bob’s termination preclude Chelsea from getting a job at Tesla?
    So many questions.

    Good luck to Bob, Chelsea, and the Boy (C)…

    1. I’m voting for the hair style, Luc- really don’t think the other things were a factor… and Tesla would never hire me for reasons that have nothing to do with Bob’s employment status. 🙂

      1. What ever the reason was, not having a Sexton on staff is Tesla’s loss. Maybe we can see more Bob and Chelsea interviews now.

        1. Oh I forgot one for interviews, the Boy. Interview topics, “Life as an EV advocate family”, “The times and tribulations of an EV dynasty”…

  22. Meeting you both at EVS26 was a real pleasure, which makes this development all the more disappointing. It was absolutely obvious Bob was good at his job and sincerely cared for “his” customers. As a Tesla shareholder, this does make me a bit nervous.

    Like others, I have no doubt this will lead to another great opportunity.

  23. Hey Chelsea and Bob,
    So sorry to hear about this! I know that you guys will come out of this craziness in better shape, but it just sounds so wrong. I hope you get some clarity in the days moving forward. Best of luck to all of you!
    – Jay

  24. Chels,

    Know that Bob will be snatched up by another EV company, although you may have to relocate to Tennessee or Bavaria… Chin up & keep doing what you’re doing – both of you. Right wins out in the end.

  25. C & B –

    Thoughts with you as you take on the next challenges. We went our own version of this some years ago. Cold, heartless, without merrit and to the gain of one ~#*!?~ who continually took credit for his team’s good work, yet blamed anything that didn’t blow Sr. Mgt’s way on the same team. Unfortunately it was a hideous, stressful nearly two year nightmare so no notice might be a blessing given the option.

    He got his own eventually.

    True friends and supporters will look deeper than the surface. From the discussion at your EVS panel this year – talent from committed EV people is desperately needed in this space so I’m certain all will work out well.

  26. Thanks, all for the lovely and incredibly supportive comments. One of the things we’ve always loved about EVs is how community-oriented the technology is, you all have reminded us once again how lucky we are to have been doing this for
    so long…

  27. Really sorry to hear this. It’s hard sometimes to remain resilient and optimistic, especially when developments cut close to the bone. Bob and you know how many people are wishing you good luck as you keep plugging away..

  28. your friends in the UK would like to thank you both for your help and support of the EV industry…. It’s really sad but I fear that Tesla have become just another car company 😦

  29. I am shocked and greatly dismayed to hear about this. As a long-time Roadster owner, I know first hand the extraordinary knowledge, courtesy, and craftsmanship that Bob brought to the LA store. As a early Model S reservation holder and ardent EV supporter, I am disheartened to think this apparently callus action could be an indication of Tesla corporate culture. Is reconciliation out of the question? Would a flood of emails to Tesla supporting Bob and complaining about the loss of his expertise make any difference?

    1. Hi Rod,

      Thank you so much for your note, it means a lot to Bob.

      His replacement was on board before Bob even knew he was being terminated, and is already working in the LA store- so I don’t know if reconciliation is possible, at least for that position. But I know he’d appreciate the support if anyone wants to write to Elon and Joost directly.

  30. There is a certain segment of the Silicon Valley culture where this type of thing is normal, and Elon Musk is squarely in that segment. He has a history of this sort of thing, and this is exactly the way that SpaceX operates as well.

    I’ve worked for companies where this sort of thing was commonplace, and to a certain extent I enjoyed the experience as much as I hated it. There is a certain allure to a take no prisoners, get rid of the riffraff type of culture (not that I am accusing anyone here of actual riffraffery).

    At one of the companies where I worked, that was especially the case. We would fire 50 guys for every one that we kept, with most being gone after just a few months or even weeks. Hardly anyone lasted more than 5 years, and I managed to work my way up to a very senior position before being axed in my 7th year.

    There was zero job security, we never told anyone why they got booted, and I wasn’t told myself when the time came. There were always REASONS, but it was just a no tolerance sort of thing and the reason didn’t really matter.

    It was by far the most productive company that I’ve ever worked at and everyone that lasted longer than a year were the elite of the elite wherever else they went. Whenever we get together we all comment on the quality of the people who worked (lasted) there, while admitting that it was without a doubt the worst place any of us ever worked.

    I have little love for Mr. Musk when it comes to constant stories of him randomly firing people. But it’s what he does while building transformative companies. Steve Jobs was a dick too, but he built Apple into an amazing company.

    History will decide whether Elon was a visionary or just a dick. In the mean time good people will undoubtedly get stomped on the way.

  31. This is really sad news, I really enjoyed talking to Bob when brining the Roadster in for service. His wealth of knowledge and common intrest to share it will truly be missed. Few service technicians care about their work as much as he did. I wish him the best in what ever his new venture may be…

  32. First off I want to send my condolences to Bob & Chelsea (who I’ve never had the pleasure to meet). I wish you both all the best. By the sounds of it you are both very talented & passionate people, so you will no doubt rise above this and move on to bigger and better things!

    Unfortunately, our world has become so litigious that providing reason or “cause” for termination is asking for a lawsuit, and at the very least disagreement and debate are likely to rage over the underlying reason(s) and the events leading up to it.

    I’ve been on the “terminating” side of this equation as a volunteer board member of my child’s school where we operate by consensus (so I can relate).
    We were faced with a very difficult situation, and there were many circumstances to consider (the children, the teacher, other faculty & staff, the families & greater community, the timing, etc.) and we spent several months to make that fateful decision…and in the end, for “legal reasons” we were instructed not to get into the details or reasoning…and it felt heartless for all of us involved.
    This was later confirmed by the teacher we ultimately terminated and the community who were on the outside looking in, who without the benefit of the information the board had and the time to process it, struggled to understand why.
    Believe me when I say this…it is a VERY HARD situation to be in for everyone….and again I feel for you Bob and Chelsea!

    As a Signature reservation holder I am growing ever more anxious about the Model S launch and my decision to take the plunge into the EV world. It is my sincere desire that Tesla will lead the EV revolution with integrity and grace…I guess only time will tell.

  33. Have to admit…Never was a fan of him. There is only so much attitude, lack of respect and unprofessionalism one can take!

    1. Hi Elie,

      Thanks for your comments. It’s true that as indicated by others here, Bob’s first priority was his customers and ensuring they have a good experience with their vehicles and Tesla Motors. He’s far less tolerant of vendors that create service issues and impact that experience in a negative way.

      Perhaps Al & Ed’s will have a better experience with David, the new Service Manager.

  34. Bob, I was in the shop yesterday and learned of this event. So sorry to hear….and the timing add to the misfortune. I really appreciated your customer service and enjoyed learning from your vast expertise.

    If you are completely at a loss for the action, I’d be willing to share my best guess.

    Best wishes for the future and I hope our paths cross again!

    Roadster 1235

  35. Hey Chelsea — I’m so sorry to hear that. What a major disappointment. I’m sure you both will be able to pick up the pieces, lick your wounds, and come back with a vengeance. Still, I’m sure there’s pain and disappointment in the short term. Good luck and thank you for what you have done and continue to do.

  36. Sorry to hear of the loss of the job. I don’t understand why HR would handle things in this manner. It is really shameful behavior. I hope the new job search goes quickly.

  37. There are options, depending on one’s commitment to Bob and “the right thing”. Sell your vehicles and your stock. I find it odd to read the ‘disappointment’ and “…it’s Tesla’s loss….” comments while hanging on to stock and vehicles (and even S per-orders).

    Is this real compassion for Bob or just lip service? Its all too easy to sit at a computer and cry out for the unjust and callous methods of a company mistreating it’s employees, it takes guts to do something about it. Take action if this really bothers you.

    1. I believe there are three aspects to corporate and business conduct;
      1). Fiscal responsibility (like the banks & wall street have not complied)
      2). Social Responsibility (Some companies do, but many do not.)
      3). Environmental Responsibility (Many companies deliberately avoid compliance).
      Tesla appears to be violating the second aspect, and I wonder if writing about our dissatisfaction on their own blog will make any difference. I would think that if you were fired after 4 years, Bob, without any explanation, that you might have legal recourse, and you should ask the people at the state manpower resources what they think. Best Wishes.

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