A German newspaper recently received a substantial amount of undisclosed information, revealing that Tesla had implemented a policy discouraging the documentation of customer complaints related to acceleration, braking, and accidents.
Handelsblatt, the publication in question, obtained approximately 100 gigabytes of data from an anonymous whistleblower within Tesla. The data consists of over 23,000 files, including PDFs, spreadsheets, and emails.
Among the leaked information are records of employee and customer data, as well as numerous complaints regarding incidents of Tesla vehicles accelerating without driver input, crash reports, and allegations of faulty collision warnings leading to abrupt emergency braking.
Moreover, the leaked files also contain a documented Tesla employee policy that explicitly mandated verbal communication with customers regarding their complaints. The policy strictly instructed employees to avoid putting any details in writing, be it in emails or voicemails.
“They never sent emails, everything was always verbal,” one California doctor reportedly told Handelsblatt. The doctor reported an incident in 2021 claiming their car accelerated on its own and crashed into concrete pillars.
According to translated segments of the Handelsblatt story published by reputable sources like The Verge and Jalopnik, Tesla employees were specifically instructed to label reviews and complaints as “for internal use only” and to solely engage in verbal correspondence with customers.
“Each entry also contains the note in bold print that information, if at all, may only be passed on ‘VERBALLY to the customer,'” the translation reads.”‘Do not copy and paste the report below into an email, text message, or leave it in a voicemail to the customer,’ it said. Vehicle data should also not be released without permission. If, despite the advice, ‘an involvement of a lawyer cannot be prevented’, this must be recorded.”
Sebastian Matthes, Handelsblatt’s editor-in-chief, posted a note along with the article, justifying the publication of the leaked data despite potential violations of European Union privacy laws. The outlet conducted thorough investigations and interviewed numerous individuals who had filed complaints before making this decision.
“The data paints the picture of an electric car pioneer who seems to have far greater technological problems than previously known,” Matthes wrote, according to a translation of the note.
The complaints themselves span a considerable time frame, ranging from 2015 to 2022, primarily originating from the United States, with some incidents reported in Europe and Asia. Handelsblatt reported engaging in conversations with dozens of affected individuals, some of whom shared videos or documented communications with Tesla representatives.
Tesla has demanded that the outlet should get rid of the “stolen” data. To implement it, the company has threatened to take legal action against the paper and the “disgruntled former employee” who they believe is behind the leak.
Moreover, the authorities in Germany and the Netherlands are still considering whether this leak warrants an investigation. This includes both the employee and customer information, potentially even including Elon Musk’s social security number.
Over the years, federal regulators in the United States have conducted investigations into Tesla’s self-driving software and reported accidents caused by other technical malfunctions. The automaker has issued recalls and released software updates for millions of vehicles in response to these incidents.