Tesla vs. The Big Two: How The Top Three Car Companies Compete in Human Capital Management

Tesla and its enigmatic leader have been dominating headlines recently but for all the wrong reasons. 

Growth is slowing as competition heats up and enthusiasm for EVs wanes. Musk said just a month ago the company would cut global headcount by more than 10%, and since then, there have been several rounds of layoffs, with US job postings slashed from over 3,400 to just three earlier this month. 

His politics are driving away the very consumers the brand covets. Employees are starting to unionize, and workers say the company has an “ultra hardcore” work culture that puts them through extremely long hours, unsafe working conditions, harassment, and more.

So, we thought it would be a perfect time to compare how Tesla performs against GM and Ford in a few different areas of human capital.

Tesla’s Glassdoor ratings trail its peers across the board. 6.5% of Tesla employees have left a review over the past 2 years, compared to 5.1% of Ford and 3.8% of GM. 18.8% of Tesla’s reviews were 1 or 2 stars (9.2% star) vs. 10.4%/4.1% for GM and 9.1%/3.9% for Ford. (For reference of how important this is, check this article which goes into the relationship between “best places to work” rankings and company performance).

Each company has seen a slight but steady decline in ratings over the past 2 years, and the decline in Elon Musk’s approval rating (77.0->66.1) looks tame compared to GM (88.0->74.0) and Ford (90.4->78.1).


Tesla grudgingly started reporting limited EEO-1 data last year following 57% voting in favor of a shareholder proposal at last year’s annual meeting but still does not release the complete, intersectional data like 96% of the S&P 100 and over 81% of the S&P 500. The company trails its peers in the Consumer Discretionary sector in all categories of human capital and DEI disclosure as measured by our transparency score.

The American Opportunity Index measures how well America’s largest companies drive economic mobility and positive career outcomes for their employees across five areas: hiring, pay, promotion, parity, and culture, tracking the career trajectories of nearly 5 million employees at 396 of America’s largest companies. Here, Tesla outperforms, ranking 2nd out of 13 companies in the Auto Manufacturers and Parts sector.

Worker conditions and treatment at Tesla frequently make the news. We analyzed regulatory penalties and legal settlements from lawsuits from Good Jobs First Violation Tracker. We focused explicitly on workplace health/safety, wage and hour violations, employment discrimination, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Tesla does lead in both the number of cases and the dollar value of fines and settlements, and while this data is insightful, it doesn’t capture the whole picture. For example, a black worker was awarded $3.2 million following two trials where he accused the automaker of racial discrimination. Still, the case was settled out of court for a confidential, undisclosed amount. By the time settlements and fines are published, it’s often been several years since the infractions occurred, such as in this case when the EEOC sued Tesa for racial discrimination offenses going back to 2015. It could be years before this case is settled, and working conditions might well have changed—for better or for worse.

These are a few examples of the different types of data and analysis we use to help stakeholders evaluate company performance and identify opportunities and risks when it comes to human capital and diversity. We also looked at injury and illness data from OSHA…contact us if you want to find out more.

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DEI Reports/Data
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