Tesla's layoffs last week will primarily focus on what had been the company's solar panel division according to Reuters, which says it has seen several internal documents and spoken to seven current and former Tesla solar employees.
If true, the move marks a change in strategy by CEO Elon Musk, who two years ago fought ardently to add solar panels to the car company's portfolio.
In 2006, Musk helped to form a solar panel company founded by his cousins, SolarCity. Focused on commercial and home installation, SolarCity soon rose to prominence as one of the biggest solar installers in California. By 2013, it had become the second-largest non-utility solar installer company in country.
As the company began to attract more attention nationally, Musk's interest in SolarCity grew. In March 2016, his space transportation company, SpaceX, bought $90 million worth of SolarCity stock. And just a few months later in June 2016, Tesla proposed acquiring SolarCity outright.
Over 85 percent of Tesla shareholders approved the purchase at the time, with Musk calling the purchase "blindingly obvious." The goal was to create "the world's only vertically integrated sustainable energy company." Showing his confidence in the purchase, Musk installed SolarCity panels on his own house.
Now Tesla is looking to close around a dozen installation facilities, according to internal company documents, and is ending its sales partnership with Home Depot. That partnership made up half of Tesla's solar panel sales.
Publicly, the company has denied a change in solar panel strategy. “We continue to expect that Tesla’s solar and battery business will be the same size as automotive over the long term,” Tesla said in a statement to Reuters.
60 installation facilities remain open, although Reuters says it has seen documents listing 13 or 14 of these slated for closure as well.
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