Tesla fired hundreds of its factory workers this week as it gears up to build the Model 3, its first mass-market car, the success of which the company is banking on to help it move into the upper echelons of the major US automakers.
Workers told the San Jose Mercury News, among the first news outlets to break the story, that about 400 to 700 employees had been fired from the company’s Fremont, California factory which employs about 10,000 workers.
Tesla insisted this was business as usual, just part of an annual round of performance reviews. “As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures,” a spokesperson told Quartz. “Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.” The company says that, overall for 2017, employee turnover will be similar to last year’s. It expects to fill the vast majority of these positions, and expects there will be no impact on Model 3 production.
The company said on Oct. 2 it had produced only 260 Model 3s at its Fremont plant in the third quarter, well short of CEO Elon Musk’s stated plan to roll about 1,500 of the cars off its assembly line by that time. Now, Tesla will need to push even harder in the coming months to achieve its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of 2017. The company has also said that by 2018, it’ll be able to ship 500,000 vehicles of all models annually.
This story has been updated with comments received from Tesla after the article was published.