By Conor White
Martin Tripp, the former Tesla employee Elon Musk claimed tried to "sabotage" the company, said he was really just acting as a whistleblower.
And if Tripp's allegations are true ー if the company is in fact inflating production numbers ー Brian Deagon, senior reporter at Investor's Business Daily, said it could be a disaster for the electric carmaker and its CEO.
"Not meeting [the] target would be awful," Deagon explained. "In my interviews with analysts, they have brought up the fact that ー and I don't like using this phrase but ー people are saying, with all the targets that he's missed, he's a liar, he can't be trusted. But the other side of that is, these are his goals that he truly believes in."
Tesla filed a lawsuit against Tripp on Wednesday, claiming he stole "gigabytes" worth of data and made false statements to the media, allegedly in response to being reassigned after job performance problems.
In a statement to CNN later that day, Tripp said the company was using punctured battery cells and had overstated the number of Model 3 vehicles produced in the first quarter.
If that's true, Tesla might be behind in its goal to produce 5,000 of those cars a week by the end of this month. And, Deagon said, missing the target again would not go unnoticed.
"I don't think there's any company that's as closely watched as Tesla," said Deagon. "It has so much to do with Elon Musk, he's such an interesting guy, and Tesla's really trying to revolutionize the car industry by making it all electric."
"With everything Tesla's got going on, and Elon Musk, any distraction is unwanted."
Whether or not Tripp's allegations turn out to be true, damage has already been done. Tesla stock fell nearly 5 percent Tuesday after Musk's sabotage claims and then dropped again on Thursday after Tripp's response to the suit.
UPDATE: In an email to Cheddar on Friday, Tesla said Tripp is in no way a whistleblower and that he stole information through duplicitous means. The company also said Tripp's claims can be easily disproved.
For the full interview, click here.