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Tesla reportedly faces FBI criminal investigation

The FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into whether Tesla misstated production figures about the electric car maker's Model 3 sedan and misled investors about its business, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that FBI agents are contacting former Tesla employees to interview them. The paper cited anonymous people familiar with the matter.

A Tesla spokesperson said the company cooperated with a "voluntary request" for documents from the Justice Department earlier this year but has had no additional requests for months. 

"We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony or any other formal process, and there have been no additional document requests about this from the Department of Justice for months," she said in a statement. 

Earlier this year, Musk pledged to step up production of the Model 3 to 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of the second quarter. That process proved difficult, although the company succeeded in meeting it target. 

"Ultimately, given difficulties that we did not foresee in this first-of-its-kind production ramp, it took us six months longer than we expected to meet our 5,000 unit per week guidance," the spokesperson said, adding that the company is "enormously proud" of having met its production goals. 

The Model 3 is a key part of Tesla's plan to expand from a niche player in the luxury segment to a car maker with broader appeal.   

Tesla shares, which were enjoying a rally on Friday, gave up most of the gain immediately after the Journal posted the report. But they recovered and closed at $330.90, a gain of $16.04, or 5 percent on the day.

SEC accuses Elon Musk of securities fraud 06:22

Tesla recently settled a civil lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which sued over tweets by founder Elon Musk that he had funding in place to take the company private. Tesla agreed to pay $20 million as part of that settlement, and Musk said he would step down as chairman of the board; he can stay on as CEO.

The report of a criminal probe comes as Tesla's business is gaining momentum. The company this week reported third-quarter earnings of of $417 million on revenue of $6.8 billion. Tesla also says that it has chopped the amount of time it needs to manufacture a Model 3 by nearly a third. The company delivered 83,000 vehicles between July and September, producing an average of 4,300 a week.

Those strides led some analysts to declare that Tesla, which has never recorded an annual profit, is turning the corner.

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