Tesla’s Nordic Headache Intensifies

Following a Reuters investigation into parts failing on Tesla vehicles, Norway’s road regulator says it’s looking into Tesla’s suspensions.

Close-up photo of a Tesla car
Photo by Vlad Tchompalov via Unsplash

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Tesla made the naughty list on Santa’s home turf of Scandinavia.

Following a Reuters investigation published earlier this week into tens of thousands of complaints about parts failing on new Tesla vehicles, Norway’s road regulator says it’s looking into Tesla’s suspensions — and its inquiry could result in a recall by Christmas. This new yuletide shadow hangs over the company while it’s still engaged in an increasingly hostile fight with unions from Copenhagen to Svalbard. 

Scandi Bête Noire

Tesla’s Scandi-woes began in late October, when 130 Swedish Tesla mechanics laid down their tools to protest the company’s refusal to reach a collective bargaining agreement. CEO Elon Musk is no fan of unions, but in Scandinavia they’re a fact of doing business. Political scientist Yohann Aucante told France 24 that 70% of Swedish workers belong to a union, and 90% of all employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. As the fight escalated, other Swedish unions began to withhold their labor from Tesla in solidarity, then unions in Norway, Denmark, and Finland joined the fray.

Tesla tried to fight back in Sweden’s courts after the country’s postal union stopped delivering license plates for the company — but to no avail, the court ruled in favor of the union. The sympathy actions against Tesla weren’t restricted to unions, either:

  • Pension funds in Norway and Denmark have tried to put the squeeze on Tesla. PensionDanmark publicly dumped its shares in the company, which the AP reports to be worth $70 million.
  • Denmark’s teachers’ pension fund also jettisoned around $35 million in Tesla shares. Even for teachers, that’s pretty strict.

Auto analyst Mathias Schmidt told the AP that Tesla’s attempt to force the postal workers to deliver its license plates through legal action exacerbated the situation, “making unions more steadfast and creating sympathetic actions across the country.” Tesla is facing the prospect of a big union drive on home turf as well. The United Auto Workers union, emboldened by the deals it struck with legacy automakers this year, declared it will try to unionize the company.

Elon Giveth, and Elon Taketh Away:  This week, Tesla announced it’s raising hourly salaries for workers at its Nevada battery factory by 10% or more. However, the goodwill might be short-lived as Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the company is skipping stock awards this year. Incidentally, in 2018 Musk was sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board for tweeting: “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union … But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” Why indeed, when you can pay no fees and lose your stock anyway!