Tesla sales employees petition for higher base pay after commission cuts in 2019.

  • A Tesla sales employee emailed other staffers asking for support in seeking higher base pay after commissions were cut and responsibilities increased in the second half of 2019.
  • Several current and former sales employees explained that bonuses and commissions were cut, and roles combined.
  • The petition shows how Tesla has pushed some employees to do more with less as the company drives hard to improve margins and reach sustained profitability.

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A Tesla sales employee sent a mass e-mail asking North American colleagues to support her in seeking higher base pay after commissions were cut but responsibilities increased in the second half of 2019.

Dare Brewer, a Tesla advisor based in Richmond, Virginia, sent an email on Jan. 9 saying that a recent consolidation of multiple sales roles involved “a very slight increase in base pay and a devastating decrease in commission.” She continued, “Therefore, we are requesting a 15% increase in base pay to bring us closer to a living wage,” and asked colleagues to look out for a follow-up email with a link to the petition.

The sales employees’ e-mail illustrates how Tesla has pushed its teams to do more with less as the company drives to improve margins and reach sustained profitability.

Over the past year, Tesla expanded its operations internationally, securing billions to build and open its own car plant in Shanghai. Shares in Tesla have skyrocketed over the past three months in response to the electric car maker’s potential for sales growth in China and Europe, a lack of direct competition from other automakers and a stream of promises from CEO Elon Musk to make science fiction manifest with products like a bulletproof Cybertruck pickup, or cars that can operate as driverless robo-taxis.

Brewer said she never sent the follow-up email to her colleagues because a senior human resources manager told her that would violate a Tesla policy which bars “improper solicitations or distributions” through work devices and communication systems.

In the petition, which is now publicly accessible on a site called Coworker.org, Brewer and other un-named Tesla employees wrote: “So far the response from our local managers has been to divide and intimidate us in our efforts.”

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. The petition had garnered 187 signatures by Wednesday morning.

Squeezing salespeople.

Tesla restructured how it pays salespeople in the second half of 2019, according to Brewer’s e-mail and four other current and former sales employees from three different states. Base pay levels vary from $17 to $33 an hour for Tesla sales employees in major U.S. markets, depending on seniority. In the second half of 2019, bonuses were restructured or removed, and commissions were cut. The most senior and highest-performing sales employees saw a slight increase to their base pay. Some asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to talk to press about internal affairs.

The current and former sales employees said managers now urge Tesla sales advisors to complete each vehicle delivery within 15 minutes, which entails completing customer paperwork, making sure the customers are happy with the quality of their car and educating them on how to use unique features such as Tesla’s touch-screen dashboard controls and Autopilot, their advanced driver assistance systems.

Current and recent Tesla employees also said that 2019 end-of-year performance reviews were delayed until early 2020, which means that employees waiting on performance-related awards, like stock options, missed out as shares in Tesla climbed 100% in the past three months.

Along with the cut to their commissions in the second half of 2019, responsibilities increased for all sales employees as Tesla combined the roles of Owner Advisors, Customer Experience Specialist and Delivery Experience Specialists.

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Many Tesla sales jobs now include selling or leasing new and used cars, selling solar and energy storage products, and pre-delivery vehicle preparation tasks that used to be managed by dedicated teams, including skilled vehicle technicians.

For instance, one specialist who previously sold Tesla solar and energy storage systems said that by fall 2019 she was responsible not only for sales of cars and energy products, but also for preparing cars for pick-up and delivery, including cleaning, physical inspections and ordering any missing parts.

Additionally, sales advisors now have to accept and process trade-ins and returned vehicles while helping customers with a range of other problems.

There are still vehicle preparation specialists who detail the cars. But some service centers are down to just a couple of these on staff, which leaves sales advisors to do the rest.

Some Tesla sales advisors said they took on second jobs to make up for lost income, or resorted to using food pantries and other public or welfare benefits. The pay cuts have also driven some long-time employees away.

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