Tesla Execs Depart

Tesla Execs Depart

Tesla loses two Model S executives before new model debuts

Electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. said both its chief engineer and director of chassis engineering for the Model S luxury car left the company just months before the rechargeable sedan goes on sale.

Peter Rawlinson, Tesla's vice president and chief engineer, and Nick Sampson, director of vehicle and chassis engineering departed this month, Ricardo Reyes, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

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Sudre_ | 13. Januar 2012

I am very curious for any hint as to why... are they retiring, moving to a better paying job or are there possible disagreements in house... very curious.

The Froq | 13. Januar 2012

Well....lost some money last hour.

Being a reservation holder and stock owner is not having fun al the time. (Wait and see)

In God and Elon we trust!

gagliardilou | 13. Januar 2012

Just bought more options this morning. Had I waited a couple hours, I would have got them cheap! I am sure there is good reason but it definitely is disturbing being so close to the release of the S. Definitely want to hear Tesla comment on this.

olanmills | 13. Januar 2012

Hmmm this is distubring. I hope everything with the car is still going okay.

EdG | 13. Januar 2012

It bothers me that crash test results are imminent and the "director of vehicle and chassis engineering" has just (been?) departed.

olanmills | 13. Januar 2012
gagliardilou | 13. Januar 2012


Thats a scary thought!

pbrulott | 13. Januar 2012

Well officially Rawlinson for personal matters (going back to UK) and Sampson had “fully transitioned” off the Model S at the time of his departure.

It is wait and see. As the guy said in this article, it doesn't look good and look is important for Telsa...

What strucks me is that there is no press release on the website... Guys at TM, take care of your website.

olanmills | 13. Januar 2012

Sorry I should have mentioned, it has info about their replacements as well as a quote about Peter stepping away for "personal matters [...yadda yadda]" That is always the standard line whether it is actually true or not, so it really doesn't mean anything one way or another.

olanmills | 13. Januar 2012

*and sorry I mad that last post before I saw pbrulott's post.

discoducky | 13. Januar 2012

Well, looks like Nick isn't looking for work at the moment:

Can't see Peter's profile:

Ok, just guessing based on this article which seems to have the most information about the emails from TM:

Guessing that "personal reasons" could mean "judgment differences" and if both engineering VP and lead left it could also mean that there were "surprises" late in development or early in production that were not readily apparent to Elon that impact critical path for Founder deliveries. Given where we are in the production cycle one would have to guess that the issue lies in either crash safety (structural) or fit/finish difficulties with final assemblies. I doubt it's the battery, motor, inverter or gearbox, even the electronics since those can be iterated on rapidly given how TM is setup. But if there was a disagreement on design that lead to a major change in structural engineering or if fit/finish caused a major design change then I would hope TM would suck it up and let their shareholders know ASAP so fires don't burn or smolder longer than necessary.

Let's just hope a delay announcement is not on the way...

pbrulott | 13. Januar 2012

@olanmills no worries ;-)

After market trading seems to come back a bit +7% 24.42 from 22.79 at close

And about Peter R, about the personal reason, why would they say/know he is going back to UK? odd

gagliardilou | 13. Januar 2012


Seems very possible. If the launch would be delayed because of an oversight by Rawlinson, I do believe Elon would let him go given the extreme importance of getting the car out on time. Elon has been saying it would be on time and if it is not, that undermines the whole operation - not to mention the hurt to the company and the stock. I agree though - if it will be delayed, get it out there and suck it up. I for one would buy and will buy more stock as price drops.

If it has to do with not getting 5 star crash test ratings, that may put things off for a while. Lets hope it is not that. I dont believe there is one person on this site that doesnt believe the car will come to market - but when????

rdgreene | 13. Januar 2012

The replacement of Peter Rawlinson (who apparently was an engineer) with Jerome Guillen (who looks to be a business person all the way back to McKinsey) is interesting. I'm sure Guillen is amazingly bright (there's the McKinsey brand), but the skill set looks different.

mcornwell | 13. Januar 2012

The Peter Rawlinson videos that Tesla produced were one of the big factors in deciding to place my order:

Erik M. | 13. Januar 2012

Wonder if this was purposely timed...on a Friday...and just before NAIAS to get this out of the way, ahead of a big show and major news coming in Model X as well.

cmlaff | 13. Januar 2012

It's disappointing, and rather alarming, that the reservation holders received no email from TM exec reassuring us or at least giving us some info about these changes. Significant commitments (financial & emotional) have been made by many folks around the world based on respect and faith in TM. I expect the same respect from TM execs and so far a big nothing. Anybody recall WorldCom, Enron, etc.?

olanmills | 13. Januar 2012

@Erik, that would make sense. Monday is a market holiday as well.

GoTeslaChicago | 13. Januar 2012

Yes but if it was planned to minimize attention,It would have been released after the market close. A19% drop in the stock is a big attention getter!

Mycroft | 13. Januar 2012

I think it was meant to be released after market close, but somebody screwed up or it was leaked.

jbunn | 13. Januar 2012

Pretty hard drop, but it came up in aftermarket. 20% drop when two engineers leave is market "irrationality". I bought aftermarket. Wish I would have seen the new earlier. ; )

TJK | 13. Januar 2012

Elon's Tweet:

"Sometimes, it is not super fun to run a public company. The exec departure news at Tesla was way overstated."

discoducky | 13. Januar 2012
TikiMan | 13. Januar 2012

One has to wonder if these 'departures' were in large part due to the 'first impression' issues that have been discussed here on this board, and at the beta showings?

Although the design of the Model S is said to be 80% to 90% final, one still has to wonder if the first reactions of it, and the price, has caused a some disagreements within the lead design staff?

I for one am a true believer in the car, however, some of the beta design choices and pricing of options (had it been me), could have been better. Thus, this might be a good thing in the long run, as maybe a few of these issues will be improved with their replacements.

Again, this is just pure speculation, coming from someone who has seen products improve and executives 'leave' companies, after focus groups got their hands on a beta version.

Volker.Berlin | 13. Januar 2012

Wonder if this was purposely timed...on a Friday...and just before NAIAS to get this out of the way, ahead of a big show and major news coming in Model X as well. (Erik M.)

You bet!

Brian H | 14. Januar 2012

Actually, the Nick Sampson page now says

Nick Sampson

Currently Seeking New Opportunities

Greater Los Angeles Area


Now at Currently seeking new opportunities


Director Vehicle & Chassis Engineering at Tesla Motors

Since he's still available and local, I'd expect the journos to be all over him. Could get interesting! Hope there's no bad blood and bad-mouthing involved.

Teoatawki | 14. Januar 2012

One ray of sunshine for us in this news from the Bloomberg article:

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer and biggest shareholder, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “There is no question in my mind that we will start delivering vehicles in July, if not sooner.”

discoducky | 14. Januar 2012

Summary: my money is still on a poor crash test result being the catalyst...

It's hard to be anything but pessimistic (bearish) about this news. Reasonably negative news could be imminent unless there is enough buffer in their production schedule to account for the issues encountered or uncovered. Based on what Elon has said as well as Peter, Nick and TM announcements/status it doesn't feel like the impact from whatever happened has been fully understood/digested/PR'd (why we haven't received an email yet)

Highly doubt there isn't bad news somewhere lurking since the departure of both at the same time, in the way it was announced (possibly leaked) right before a long weekend (MLK day Monday in the states). But, since the news *did* looked planned for a release of least media impact, it would seem that this could be the last people outside of TM hear of it.

Also highly doubt that there isn't bad blood. Even if the departures were a compromise, why is Nick looking for work? Why doesn't he have a job lined up? Whomever interviews him should get an ear full unless he's still heavily vested. He was the lead Project Manager and from my past experience, as a lead Project Manager in the computer industry, there are so many ways that a project can go off the rails or be shown to be "on track" when it really isn't.

And then there is Deepak selling stock which has been bothering me since he is the CFO. It isn't alot but he's done it several times recently. Anyway, had to get that off my chest...

Since both Nick and Peter were at Lotus it would seem that they came over to TM as a package. It would seem whatever happened was the result of both of them knowing and/or "falling on the sword".

Even given the above, I would still hope that there is no wrong doing or ill will just for the sake of the TM employees who have put their heart and soul for several years to make the Model S a reality.

Whatever happens, all my best to the good people at TM making it happen!

Mark K | 15. Januar 2012

This really surprised me, so I gave it some thought.

With the abrupt timing, right now the data is too limited to go beyond conjecture.

Despite this, for either a customer or shareholder, there is some value to at least bookending the possibilities. It helps define "What happens next?" and therefore what's wise to do with an order or shares.

If you think through the logic, here is my CEO's suite guess at what may explain what happened:

Schedule vs. Practice

Elon furiously hammers on the schedule. Peter balks, asserting that it can't be done right in the time left. Elon insists it can, and they clash. Elon decides to bring in other hands and Peter says he'll leave if Elon doesn't back down. He doesn't. Peter feels compelled to act on his own words, and leaves hurriedly, taking his longtime colleague Sampson with him.

I don't put too much stock in "bad test results promoted Elon to sack Peter". If that had happened, he would have retained Peter for continuity while bringing in extra muscle to fix it. Peter seems to take a lot of pride in his work. It doesn't fit his profile to jet out of Dodge on the heels of a setback. He would have stayed, accepted help and worked hard to recover if there were a genuine stumble.

For Peter to abruptly leave, they had to be at philosophical loggerheads, at crunch time. And Peter would not have stood so high on principle if he were reeling from a major faux-pas. I don't think Peter screwed up, and departure notwithstanding, he still has earned a very cool perch in automobile history.

Elon just didn't see the posture needed to bring it home on time. This isn't so odd either. To have Peter's high-grade conceptual talent is often mutually exclusive with the schedule-hawk attitude needed as you near launch.

Further, it's not as though they'd "discover" their crash-worthiness from one test date. This stuff takes many internal test over months / years and you know largely where you stand long before the NHTSA checks your work.

To sum up the plausible scenario:

They unwillingly lost their talented architect when they put their get-it-done builder in charge. Unfortunate, but right now completing construction is center stage.

Don't forget that Elon is an engineer. That gives him the rare gravitas to move quickly on instinct. Complex technical decisions, or warring tribes of engineers that would befuddle purely administrative managers, would not derail a CEO who personally understands engineering. If he challenged Peter, he may actually know what he's doing.

So there you have it - Elon is either:

a demanding autocrat who can't manage his talent pool; or

a brisk decision-maker, keen enough to hitch a different horse for the terrain ahead.

Either is possible, but the fact that Falcon rockets really do fly, and PayPal delivered billions to eBay suggest that Elon is more likely a doer than a fool.

People who get things done do not shy from crucial decisions, even when they may (regrettably) upset some folks.

The abruptness may at first seem like organizational chaos. In reality, it may instead reflect a chief who unflinchingly executes exactly what it takes to win, even if he takes some heat in the process.

Many CEOs hesitate at critical points, rationalizing away action that might provoke criticism. Instead they retreat to the safety of deferral. In truth, there is no safety in deferral. It simply delays the bomb, but the bomb still explodes. And sometimes it blows up even bigger with time. If you realize that action is needed, you don't wait. You act. The consequences are not always fun, but you accept them because it's your job to win.

The scenario I described is pure speculation, but it can plausibly explain why something odd like this could happen, even though TM can succeed strongly with it being true. Sometimes the process isn't pretty, but it gets done.

In any case, reality will be clear soon enough. July is approaching quickly, and you can't fake the delivery of a great car. It is what it is.

If it's delayed or doesn't perform, no explanations or spin will change the facts, and we'll know before we consummate our purchases.

If it arrives and is great, it doesn't matter what sort of hell the chefs went through back in the kitchen. The dish is simply wonderful all the same.

A fascinating and historic drama, all of this. And while it may make entertaining fodder for some in the spectator seats ... for Elon and Co., it's time to follow your instincts and finish big.

There is, after all, a car to build.

dborn | 15. Januar 2012

It is time for the company to send us all an explanatory e-mail at the very least. Enough with the emotionalism generated by this vehicle. i am as keen on it as anyone else, and i am a share holder and sig reservation holder. We are all "true believers" in the company. But in the cold hard cruel world, this is simply a business and while the share market response was clearly severe overreaction, the share price has indeed been slowly declining over the past fortnight. So, what is going on? No amount of analysing here is going to make a jot of difference, and also is of zero value. What is of value is to hear directly from the company with facts, warts and all. The letter could go out commercial-in-confidence.
I have already written to my customer advocate asking for an official explanation. i suggest everyone on this forum does the same. It worked at the end of last year and provoked the pricing announcements, and it will work again. Come on folks, start writing to where it counts!

Brian H | 15. Januar 2012

I am reminded of the displacement and ultimate dismissal of Martin. His love of his original vision(s) had him trying to rationalize building Roadsters at a -50% margin ($90K for $140K cost). The old "but we'll make it up on volume!" joke ...

Elon's tweet ("Sometimes, it is not super fun to run a public company. The exec departure news at Tesla was way overstated.")

Overstated: accurate but exaggerated? WUWT?

ModelS3P | 15. Januar 2012

They have announced an investor call on Tuesday before market open.

The Froq | 15. Januar 2012

@Mark K,

Haven't see you many times before on this forum, you use a lot of words, but I think your point of few is OK.

Tesla is a small company with a very special CEO. Elon is second to none and he is doing a very, very good job.

"If you play golf you are suppose to lose a ball from time to time."

jbherman | 15. Januar 2012

Posted this in another thread and I'm sure many of you insiders also received it, but for those who did not we'll get our answers early Tuesday morning:

Tesla Motors Announces Date for Company Update Conference Call

PALO ALTO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 01/15/12 -- Tesla Motors, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) announced today that it will host a conference call to provide a Company Update, including a discussion of recent personnel changes. The call will be held before market hours on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, at 5:00am Pacific Time (8:00am Eastern Time). The Company Update will include commentary from members of the senior management team, and be followed by a Question & Answer period.

What: Tesla Motors, Inc. Company Update and Question & Answer Conference Call
When: January 17, 2012
Time: 5:00am Pacific Time / 8:00am Eastern Time
Webcast: (live and replay)
Live Call: (877) 312-5519 / (760) 666-3771 (International)

Approximately two hours after the call, a digital recording of the call will be available for a period of two weeks. To access the recording, please dial in to one of the following numbers using the conference ID shown.

Replay Dial In #: (855) 859-2056 Conference ID: 43839977
International Replay Dial In #: (404) 537-3406 Conference ID: 43839977

The webcast will also be archived on the Company's website for a period of one year following the date of the call.

About Tesla Motors

Tesla's goal is to accelerate the world's transition to electric mobility with a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla designs and manufactures EVs and EV powertrain components. Tesla has delivered more than 2,000 Roadsters, the world's first electric sports car, to customers world-wide. Model S, the first premium sedan to be built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, goes on the market in mid-2012.

For additional information, please visit

Add to Digg Bookmark with Add to Newsvine

Source: Tesla Motors, Inc.

Mark K | 15. Januar 2012

This is good. A Sunday press release shows they take it seriously.

Letting outsiders query the team will help sort out why it happened.

Conference call format rather than a prepared statement also suggests they're willing to be very open about it. That's the best way to quell the angst.

They're reacting intelligently, and consistent with folks who don't have a big problem to hide.

No need to speculate now since we can hear what they have to say Tuesday.

Brian H | 15. Januar 2012

What if Rawlinson and Jackson call in?

Brian H | 15. Januar 2012

I wonder if both will lose their Founders' reservations.

Brian H | 16. Januar 2012

The "issues" may have nothing to do with the current products, but rather with choices to be made about follow-ons, like the minivan or cabriolet, or even the Bluestar. I'm sure major design and planning decisions are happening re them in present time. What's the average/normal lead time in Detroit for a "new model" design? 5 yrs? 10?

GoTeslaChicago | 16. Januar 2012

Regarding Tesla stocks sudden plunge Friday afternoon, 19 % in 35 minutes, on volume of 4.8 million.
(5.5 million for the day, but about 4.8 million in the last 35 minutes)

Sometimes the collective mind of the market has the ability to price in news better than any person acting alone can.

And sometimes the computer algorithms can run amok.

If it is the latter case, then most or all of the losses should be reversed on Tuesday. As a stockholder, reservation holder, and believer in Tesla, I'm hoping for the latter.

Brian H | 16. Januar 2012

The after-hours shares recovered a couple of bucks almost immediately, then were flat.

As for pricing "news", 'buy on rumor, sell on news' means that guessing about what others are guessing drives prices. That gets reality-checked, sort of, eventually, of course.

mcornwell | 16. Januar 2012

Pondering waking up a few hours early tomorrow (I'm on the left coast) to listen to the call live. As a shareholder and reservation holder, I'm anxious to hear the company spin on this.

discoducky | 16. Januar 2012

I've never called in before, but will be up at 4:30am for this one. If there is anything interesting I'll start a thread if there isn't one going already.

It would be cool if "The Verge" or "Engadget" did a live blog of the event though. If sites like AutoBlogGreen were cooler they would live blog this event. Just sayin...

Brian H | 16. Januar 2012

So is Fremont, CA. Lots of TM staff going to be running on caffeine (and little blue pills?) tonight, I betcha! Look for the blue satchels under Elon's eyes when/if video is available ...