Tesla encouraged its employees to buy cars using their paid vacation days

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty ImagesTesla’s Washington, DC, store, pictured on March 4, has since closed.
  • Tesla offered employees many discounts on buying cars last year, including the ability to cash in paid time off as well as free Autopilot software, two current employees and a source close to the matter told Business Insider.
  • The company also used in-store sales staff to deliver cars in its aggressive end-of-quarter run last year, employees said.
  • SpaceX employees were also offered discounts and incentives for Tesla cars, employees said.
  • As Tesla closes its retail stores, salespeople say they are unhappy with a lack of communication from the automaker as it pertains to their jobs.

During Tesla‘s aggressive push to sell and deliver cars last year, the automaker encouraged sales staff to trade in their accrued paid time off toward the purchase of new Tesla vehicles.

A current salesperson, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the company’s retail strategy, told Business Insider the offers came amid other discounts for cars and add-ons like Autopilot and “full self-driving” mode.

“They said, ‘If you’ve accumulated any PTO time – paid time off – you can apply that towards the purchase of the car,” the employee said. Another employee and a source with knowledge of the discounts confirmed this offer to Business Insider.

Read more: Tesla made a drastic change to its bonus structure before deciding to cut costs by closing stores, salespeople say

Many employees were excited by the discounts, which were also offered to SpaceX employees.

“I bought a car and I talked to lots of colleagues who bought cars,” the employee said. “It made the company look a hell of a lot better.”

Around the same time last year, Tesla also used energy and owner advisers – the company’s name for salespeople of home solar systems and cars – as extra labour to deliver cars during its “all hands on deck” push to get manufactured cars into customers hands, two store employees said.

“We were thrown into vehicle delivery, delivering cars to people in Glendale Hills or driving three hours in traffic to Ontario to deliver a car and then taking an Uber back,” the employee said.

That move came after Tesla pulled energy advisers out of the field and into stores, a move that made leads harder to come by, the employee said.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Staff were happy to help out, the employee said, both to aid in the mission of Tesla and for their own job security. A portion of many employees’ compensation is in the form of restricted stock units, which are shares given to workers on a predetermined vesting schedule. The ultimate value of those shares is dependent on where the company’s stock is trading on the date of maturation.

But as retail stores close, employees are questioning whether Tesla has the same commitment that many showed for the company last year. In some cases, salespeople found out about the retail store closings through press reports last week, which CEO Elon Musk announced in a blog post and a conference call with select media outlets.

On that call, Musk said that closing the stores and reducing headcount was necessary: “There’s no other way for us to achieve the savings required.”

The company has not offered details about which stores were closing, but many locations have already been shuttered throughout the US while their listings on Tesla’s online directory of stores were quietly scrubbed.

“I’ve seen a lot of people very upset,” the employee said. “Some people gave up quite a bit to relocate, move, and change their lives. It comes down to the way in which it was done – that seems to be where the company has a problem.”

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