Ex-Tesla CEO says the company's culture might be 'nicer' if he had stuck around: 'I'm not into random firings'
Tesla cofounder Martin Eberhard said the carmaker's company culture might be "nicer" if he'd stayed.
Eberhard was ousted as CEO in 2007 and hasn't been involved with the company since.
He said he's not into "random firings," a practice Musk has denied engaging in in the past.
Martin Eberhard, one of Tesla's original founders, said the carmaker would look different today if he was still at its helm — specifically, there would be fewer "random firings."
"I'm a believer of treating employees with respect and I'm not into random firings and things like that," Eberhard told Insider in an interview. "So maybe the culture inside the company would have been a little bit nicer."
Eberhard stepped down as the CEO of Tesla in 2007, about three years after Elon Musk began investing in the electric-car maker. Eberhard previously told Insider that Musk and Tesla's board had met behind his back and had voted to replace him as CEO.
Musk has said Eberhard's departure was related to delays in the Tesla Roadster's production, as well as other operational issues.
Musk became Tesla's CEO in 2008 and has become virtually synonymous with the brand's image in recent years. Today, Tesla lore revolves around Musk's lofty production goals, his "hardcore" work edicts, and stories of the billionaire sleeping on the factory floors.
Eberhard said Tesla had a similar work ethic when he was CEO, but that he had different methods of driving employees.
"I tried to keep the company motivated by keeping them on-mission to realize that what we're doing was really important for the world," Eberhard said. "And that motivated people to put lots and lots of hard hours into it, but not out of fear, rather out of that feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of responsibility."
The Tesla cofounder said he had to fire people from "time to time," but that he "hated it."
By referring to "random firings," Eberhard appeared to be alluding to reports that Musk can be prone to bouts of anger and even instances of rage-firing employees — allegations Musk has adamantly denied, calling them "false" on Twitter and saying he gives "clear and frank" feedback to employees.
In 2017, a survey of workers included comments that Musk was an "unapproachable tyrant" who fires people "because of his ego." The survey identified "Elon and exec team" as high-risk areas for the company.
Meanwhile, Musk has slammed Eberhard's leadership skills in the past.
"He came damn close to killing Tesla through a combination of bad management decisions, driving out talented people, bad engineering, major blunders in supply chain & an elaborate deception about the true cost & schedule of the Tesla Roadster," Musk wrote on Twitter in 2021.
Musk didn't respond to multiple requests for comment. Insider's emails to Tesla's press line seeking comment were not returned.
Read the full Insider interview with Martin Eberhard.
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