Just as the dust looked to be settling for Elon Musk's Tesla, it appears the company has another investigation on its hands. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether the electric car company misled investors about its production goals for the Model 3, citing sources familiar with the matter.
A Tesla spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement that it received a "voluntary request for documents from the Department of Justice about its public guidance for the Model 3 ramp" earlier this year. But Tesla said it has not received any additional document requests, a subpoena, or a request for testimony from the DOJ about its public guidance for Model 3 production "for months."
The Journal reported that the criminal investigation is looking into production claims Tesla made starting in 2017. Specifically, its sources said investigators are "homing in on whether the company made projections about its Model 3 production knowing it would be impossible to meet the goals." While the DOJ probe was initially reported in September, the nature of the investigation was not immediately known.
The Tesla spokesperson said that the company was "transparent" about its ambitious Model 3 production goals and "about how difficult it would be, openly explaining that we would only be able to go as fast as our least lucky or least successful supplier, and that we were entering 'production hell.'" The company attributed the delay of its 5000 unit-per-week production ramp to "difficulties that we did not foresee."
"Tesla's philosophy has always been to set truthful targets — not sandbagged targets that we would definitely exceed and not unrealistic targets that we could never meet," the company added.
The report follows news just weeks ago that Musk settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that the Tesla CEO committed fraud when he tweeted that he had secured funding to take the company private.
In addition to both Musk and Tesla agreeing to pay a combined $US40 ($56) million, Musk was also required to step down as Tesla's chairman for at least three years.