Tesla Semi Intro Dogged by Lawsuit, Harassment Charge

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Thursday evening in California, Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) will unveil its all-electric semi truck after a one-month delay that CEO Elon Musk attributed to production problems with the company’s new Model 3 and a move to produce batteries to help with Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. That was the second delay for the semi truck.

Taking some of the shine off the introduction is a lawsuit filed Monday by a former employee who claims that Tesla is a “hotbed for racist behavior” and that African American workers at the company suffer severe and pervasive harassment, according to a Bloomberg Report.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who complained in writing to Tesla human resources and to Musk that employees and supervisors regularly used the “N word” around him and other black workers. Vaughan was fired in October, just six months after he began working at the company, for “not having a positive attitude.” Tesla has not commented on the lawsuit.

More bad news came Monday related to Tesla board member Steve Jurvetson, a partner in one of Silicon Valley’s oldest venture capitalist firms, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, who stepped down from his firm and took a leave of absence from both Tesla’s and Space X’s boards of directors. Jurvetson has been named in sexual harassment allegations.

According to a report at Recode, Jurvetson was being investigated by his own firm and “uncovered behaviors by Jurvetson that were unacceptable related to a negative tone toward women entrepreneurs.”

And the semi truck introduction? Early reports claim that the truck has a range of around 200 to 300 miles, barely a third the range of some diesel-powered trucks. A report at Wired estimates that a battery capable of a 900-mile range would weigh 22 tons. Because federal regulations limit semi truck payloads to 40 tons, such a range would be not mean much more than driving a battery around looking for a place to charge up and, by the way, drop off a few pounds of stuff.

Given Tesla’s difficulties with getting Model 3 production ramped, the company’s planned ramp of semi truck production in 18 to 24 months sounds pretty aggressive.

Tesla stock traded down more than 2% Tuesday, at $308.67 in a 52-week range of $180.00 to $389.61. The 12-month consensus price target is $318.62.