Elon Musk. File photo: Kichiro Sato / APj

Palo Alto, California - Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said on Monday in an email to staff that an unnamed Tesla employee had conducted "extensive and damaging sabotage" to the company's operations including allegedly making unspecified code changes to its manufacturing operating system and sending what the email said was sensitive Tesla data to unnamed third parties.

"The full extent of his actions are not yet clear, but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad," Musk wrote. "His stated motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive."

Musk said in the email he learned about this alleged behaviour over the weekend, but did not specify to whom he was referring. Company spokeswoman Gina Antonini declined to comment on the email and Reuters could not independently confirm any of the claims in the email.

Musk wrote that the company would be investigating the matter this week, adding that Tesla needed to determine if the person was acting alone or in concert with "any outside organisations".

"As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die," Musk wrote, saying they included Wall Street short-sellers, oil and gas companies, and car company rivals but naming none.