Tesla saboteur claims to be whistleblower | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 21.06.2018
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Tesla saboteur claims to be whistleblower

The former Tesla employee, whom the US e-carmaker accuses of sabotage and stealing company secrets, has claimed he was sacked because he wanted to speak out about the company's flawed production and resource waste.

Former Tesla employee, Martin Tripp, told US news media Wednesday night that he had not tampered with the carmaker's internal systems and was, instead, a whistleblower who spoke out after seeing "some really scary things" inside the company.

Read more: Tesla's Elon Musk slams 'employee sabotage'

Speaking to the daily The Washington Post and CNN television, Tripp confirmed that he provided information to Business Insider for a story the news website did earlier this month about the company's raw-material waste.

Tripp also said he had been alarmed by what he learned while an employee, including what he claimed were hundreds of Model 3s that had dangerously punctured batteries.

The 40-year-old technician, who joined Tesla last October, is seeking an attorney and official protection as a whistleblower. He said he was interrogated at work last week and subsequently fired by a human-resource representative.

Tesla accuses him of hacking the automaker's computer system and stealing company secrets. In the interview, Tripp dismissed the claim by saying that he didn't have "the patience for coding." He also said he was not, as Tesla lawyers claimed, disgruntled about not getting a promotion. "That's their generic excuse. I could literally care less," he noted.

Read more: Tesla slashes 3,000 jobs in cost-cutting endeavor

Theft of company secrets

On Wednesday, the US e-car company sued the former employee for allegedly taking large amounts of data about the company's manufacturing system and making what it claims were false statements to the media.

The allegations actually fall short of the strong charges of "extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations" that Tesla CEO Elon Musk levelled in an internal email late on Sunday.

In the lawsuit filed in the federal court in Nevada, Tesla attorneys said that Tripp wrote software to aid in an elaborate theft of confidential photos and video of Tesla's manufacturing systems. In addition, he is accused of giving journalists false information about the company, including claims that defective batteries had been used in Tesla's Model 3 sedans.

Describing Tripp as "disruptive and combative" with colleagues, the attorneys also said he had been disgruntled after being assigned to a new role. As a result of Tripp's conduct, Tesla had suffered "cruel and unjust hardship" and "lost business, lost profits and damage to its goodwill," for which the company was seeking an untold amount in damages to be decided in trial.

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Smashed hopes

In the interview with the Post, Tripp spoke about his disillusionment with Tesla, where he worked in the company's Gigafactory, which produces batteries.

He said that he had left his previous job with a medical-device company and moved his family to Nevada to work for Tesla, believing it was "a golden opportunity."

"I looked up to Elon, I looked up to Tesla. I was always drooling about the Teslas and wanting to buy one. And I was living the mission: to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy," he said.

But quickly he grew disillusioned after seeing what he called the company's waste, unsustainable practices and "how Elon was lying to investors about how many cars they were making."

Read more: Tesla shares tank after Musk visibly angered by analysts' 'boring bonehead questions'

"I wanted to leave the world better for my son. And I felt I was doing everything but that," he added.

Asked about his motives to bring Tesla's shortcoming to light, Tripp said he wanted to shine a light on the potential dangers of the company's cars and, notably, its CEO Elon Musk, whom he described as a "narcissist" who "only cares about himself."

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