Musk Pulls Back on SpaceX Work, Lays off 25 Percent at Tesla as Cash Reserves Shrink

An updates on Elon Musk, who is now trying to balance CEO commitments to both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, his electric car company. Facing a severe credit crunch that has cut off access to capital, Musk fired the previous CEO, laid off 87 Tesla employees, and delayed the launch of a battery-powered Model S sedan.

In an interview with The New York Times, Musk said he would have to cut back his time on SpaceX from about 70 percent to 50 percent so he could take over as Tesla CEO from Ze’ev Drori.

Musk blamed Tesla’s first CEO, Martin Eberhard, for spending too much time and money developing the company’s first vehicle, the Roadster. He said it has taken a year to correct the problems, a claim that drew a sharp riposte.

“He’s still blaming it on me a year later and three C.E.O.s later? Look at the constant factor at the company through all the years: Elon,” Eberhard told The Times.

Meanwhile, Valleywag reports that Tesla is facing a severe cash crush, with only $9 million in the bank to fund its operations. The news site questioned whether Tesla would be able to deliver its backlog of $100,000 Roadsters to its wealthy clientele.

Musk tried to reassure buyers and investors on Thursday. He told Reuters that the company is close to a deal for “over $20 million” in additional investment from existing investors. Musk told the news service:

“I’ve gone on record as saying that I am personally standing behind delivering the cars and the deposits for the company. I have the means and wherewithal to do so. So people should have absolutely zero concern about their deposit.”

The Times story reports that Musk is also is looking for a low-interest loan from the Department of Energy to cover most of the cost of developing the Model S. He also hopes to get a piece of the federal government’s $25 billion bailout package for the auto industry that was approved in September. That bailout provides guaranteed loans to companies making environmentally friendly vehicles.