Tesla's German Manufacturing Head Axed After 'Clash' With Elon Musk

“I definitely did not depart because I had lost interest in working,” Klaus Grohmann, the head of Tesla’s contentious but critical manufacturing arm in Germany, told Reuters. This is what happens when you butt heads with Elon Musk.


Up until this week, Grohmann was the head of Grohmann Automation, the designer of several of Tesla’s critical automated manufacturing systems. It was absorbed into Tesla before becoming a perpetual thorn in the California’s company’s side as its union demanded better wages, threatened to strike and, apparently, Mr. Grohmann got into it with Elon.

The problem is an easy one to understand, though probably not one that should get somebody fired. Reuters lays out the details in its exclusive as best it can:

Tesla planned to keep Grohmann on, and Grohmann wanted to stay, but the clash with Musk over how to treat existing clients resulted in his departure, the source said.

Grohmann disagreed with Musk’s demands to focus management attention on Tesla projects to the detriment of Grohmann Engineering’s legacy clients, which included Tesla’s direct German-based rivals Daimler and BMW, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Reached by phone, Klaus Grohmann declined to comment on the circumstances of his leaving, citing confidentiality clauses.

“I definitely did not depart because I had lost interest in working,” Grohmann said, without elaborating.

So the two sides of the issue are that Tesla wants Grohmann’s engineering work all to itself (Tesla did absorb the company, after all), while Grohmann wanted to continue working for a healthy variety of companies (Tesla is far from the mot stable member of the auto industry). Ultimately bossman Musk got his way, by the looks of things.

This all just reminds me that so, so many companies in the EV world have been formed by people who have been fired by Elon or quit after working with him. Faraday Future and Lucid are the biggest operations run by ex-Tesla people, but they’re working everywhere from startups like battery manufacturer Northvolt to holding jobs in Audi and Apple. But it’d be wrong to take away from all this that Elon is difficult to work with. Maybe he’s just, uh, demanding.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


Miles Archer

Musk continues to live up to my expectations of his engineering and manufacturing experience including a crony capitalist mindset.

If you purchase a supplier to your own company and your competitors you do not cut off your competitors. You continue to get a piece of what they make.. They pay full cost plus margin you pay cost. That’s the value of the company you just bought. You take cost out of your product (be it in parts, equipment, development, whathaveyou) while competitors can’t. Squandering of that capital is short sighted. If there is a bandwidth issue invest in what you bought and increase the bandwidth, don’t destroy the customer base and revenue stream. But if you don’t have to be concerned with making money I suppose destroying an acquisition’s value doesn’t matter.