"We feel like there's an ax over our head every day at Tesla. They lay off with no notice. They're just notorious for that."
As Tesla shut down stores both before and during the coronavirus pandemic, it created a widespread culture of fear among managers and workers at its network of car dealerships.
Current and former Tesla dealership employees told Business Insider that the company failed to update them or share details about how the company's early 2019 transition toward online sales would affect their jobs. Some dealerships — and their management — were given no notice and learned about the transition through the same public-facing announcements that the rest of the world saw.
"Nobody knew what was going on," Colorado dealership employee Shawn Bechtel told Business Insider.
Later, an internal memo clarified that the lowest-performing dealerships would be eliminated, resulting in a crushing blow to morale that went unacknowledged by upper management.
"That, to me, was pretty cold-hearted," a former salesperson told Business Insider.
"It was the most dismal week ever," they added. "Everybody was depressed."
And then when the pandemic reared its head and more layoffs and pay cuts occurred, the lingering fears over job security got even worse.
Some dealership workers told Business Insider that their locations were well-prepared for pandemic measures like sanitization. Others, however, had to scrub the floors with the microfiber cloths meant to wipe off cars, all while being too scared to stay home — lest they be punished.
"We feel like there's an ax over our head every day at Tesla," a current salesperson told BI. "They lay off with no notice. They're just notorious for that."