Tesla CEO Elon Musk is trying as hard as he can to show that his company is an attractive employer as the electric-car maker struggles to find employees for its new European plant near Berlin.
But as the summer 2021 opening date approaches, Musk is finding the task of finding willing workers more difficult than expected.
Tesla must hire up to 7,000 employees quickly because the first cars are scheduled to roll off the assembly line at the plant in Gruenheide as early as next July. By the end of 2022, another 5,000 employees must be added to ramp up production.
However, about eight months before the planned production start, 5,000 of the 7,000 production workers still need to be recruited, people familiar with Tesla's recruitment efforts told Automobilwoche, a German language sister publication of Automotive News Europe.
In addition, Tesla still needs to hire more than 100 engineers.
As time runs out, Tesla representatives have mounted a global search for suitable staff. And when Musk visited Berlin to receive the Axel-Springer-Award for innovation last month, he pulled out all the stops to accelerate the recruitment process. He conducted job interviews personally and went on a publicity blitz, signing autographs and posing for selfies.
Earlier this year Musk thought it would be easy to find workers for Tesla's first European plant. After all in the rest of the world, people beat a path to Tesla's doors. "They all want some of Tesla's pixie dust," Musk said in an interview with Automobilwoche in August.
But Germany reacts differently, as Musk is currently learning.
Negative media reports about rude manners, Tesla's "hire-and-fire" system and the overbearing presence of the boss could be putting off potential candidates. So far, only a fraction of the engineers needed for vehicle manufacturing have been hired.
Accounts from people already working at Gruenheide are not helping the situation. The working climate is frosty, the organization confused, and chaos reigns in many places, they say. The mood in the current team and among the companies working on the site is low.
The pressure on employees is extreme. "The most important qualities needed to work at Tesla are resilience and flexibility. An important criterion is the willingness to go the extra mile during work peaks," an official from the local goverment employment agency told Automobilwoche.
In some cases, people are reaching their limits. Managers have already left Gruenheide in a hurry or were fired by Musk. A few weeks ago, the executive overseeing the plant's construction, Evan Horetsky, had to leave because he contradicted Musk in meetings, something that is not tolerated.
Tesla has also already lost the manager of the casting unit and another construction department manager. Ten engineers who were hired to help build the plant chose to quit when their probation period was completed, Automobilwoche has learned. More than other 10 managers are being personally monitored by Musk himself.
In 2018, Wired magazine wrote in an article headlined "Dr Elon and Mr Musk" that when Musk is in a bad mood, he likes to fire people.
According to a survey conducted by the Berlin-based pollsters Civey for Automobilwoche, 36 percent of those surveyed consider Tesla an attractive employer, but 32 percent think the opposite. A surprisingly high proportion of almost a third did not want to answer.