Sep 8, 2018

Tesla rolls out executive promotions amid turmoil

Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk elevated longtime company official Jerome Guillen to head of automotive operations and announced several other executive promotions Friday — moves that come just hours after news of two high-level departures.

Why it matters: The executive changes, announced in an email to employees touting "tremendous progress" at the electric automaker, arrive amid a troubled stretch for the company, including events over the last day alone that sent its stock tumbling.

Bloomberg broke the news Friday that Gabrielle Toledano, the head of human resources, will not be returning after a leave of absence.

  • Tesla announced Friday that chief accounting officer Dave Morton was quitting after just a month in the role.
  • Musk made waves by apparently taking a drag off a joint during a late Thursday appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast (Rogan called it a mix of tobacco and pot).

The company's stock tumbled 6.3% on Friday, although it has ticked up slightly in after-hours trading.

The big picture: Tesla is facing intense scrutiny as Musk, who has had several episodes of erratic behavior in recent months, seeks to show he can sustain and improve on production increases of the Model 3 sedan that's critical to the company's future.

Tesla is also dealing with fallout from Musk's aborted plan to take the company private, which has brought a Securities and Exchange Commission probe over Musk's inaccurate August 7 tweet that he had secured funding for the project.

But in his email, Musk says Tesla is about to have the "most amazing quarter in our history, building and delivering more than twice as many cars as we did last quarter."

  • "For a while, there will be a lot of fuss and noise in the media. Just ignore them," he writes.

Thought bubble: via Axios' Steve LeVine, a longtime Tesla-watcher...

  • This is Elon going on two streams, both meant to change the subject and project normalcy after his bizarre recent weeks: In one stream is a pep talk and the announcement of a fistful of senior-level promotions, aimed at his employees and Wall Street, in that order; in the other, directed at both audiences, is the suggestion to ignore all of his hijinx, and the reaction to it.
  • We can't know if this means that he intends finally to get back to the business of making a lot of Model 3s, or an interregnum in the Elon Show, the antics that have made a lot of people worry about him, his company, and the future of electric cars.

The details: Guillen has been with Tesla for eight years and recently played a "critical role" in ramping up Model 3 production, Musk said in the email.

Guillen has also been a key player in the company's electric semi-truck program, according to several reports.

Musk also announced that Kevin Kassekert has been promoted to "VP of People and Places, with responsibility for Human Resources, Facilities, Construction, and Infrastructure Development." He has been with Tesla for six years and was previously VP for infrastructure development.

Go deeper

WHO won't call coronavirus a pandemic as cases spread

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The World Health Organization will not yet call the coronavirus a pandemic, claiming that needs across affected countries are too varied and the classification would increase fear, per a briefing Monday.

The big picture: As South Korea and Italy stepped up emergency measures in efforts to thwart the spread of the virus, WHO expressed concern about infections with no clear link to China. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,620 people and infected almost 80,000 others, with all but 27 deaths occurring in mainland China.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 51 mins ago - Health

Democrats demand new Russia sanctions over 2020 election interference

Putin and Trump. Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Senate Democratic leaders will send a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday afternoon demanding they sanction Russia — and potentially Russian President Vladimir Putin himself — for attempting to influence the 2020 presidential election.

Why it matters: The letter follows reports that a senior intelligence official briefed Congress that Russia is again interfering in the November election to help Trump. White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected that assessment on Sunday, and CNN later reported that the briefer may have overstated the intelligence community's evidence about Russia's goals.