Elon Musk isn’t alone at Tesla. You wouldn’t know it because so few people outshine the glare of Musk’s personality. But on Sept. 7, the electric car maker seemed to try to reassure the world that sober adults are in the room by broadcasting that it had elevated six employees to key roles. The announcement came the same day Tesla’s stock plunged after news broke that the heads of accounting and human resources were leaving the company.
“We are about to have the most amazing quarter in our history,” Musk wrote in an email to Tesla employees that was later posted on the company blog. “For a while, there will be a lot of fuss and noise in the media. Just ignore them. Results are what matter and we are creating the most mind-blowing growth in the history of the automotive industry.”
The most significant promotion is Jerome Guillen to president of Tesla’s automotive operations. The eight-year Tesla veteran may finally apply a steady hand to the company’s fortunes as Musk continues to foment chaos at the top. Guillen was a vice president managing the Model S and the latest Model 3 assembly line construction. Previously he managed Daimler’s semi-truck program. Tesla lacks a chief operating officer, unlike Musk’s other company SpaceX, which runs comparatively smoothly under the guidance of Gwynne Shotwell. Guillen may fill that role.
Other promotions include Kevin Kassekert, who will oversee human resources, facilities and infrastructure; Chris Lister will manage Gigafactory operations; Laurie Shelby became workplace safety chief; and new appointments for communications, diversity, and recruiting divisions.
Will all this steady the ship? Tesla has been rocked by the whims of its chief executive this year. Musk’s attempt to take the company private in August failed, erasing recent stock price gains and calling his judgment into question. It wasn’t helped by Musk dismissal of quarterly earnings calls as “boring,” harassing journalists on Twitter, calling one of the Thai cave rescuers a “pedo” (and doubling down on that claim), and lighting up a blunt (marijuana in a cigar wrapper) on a podcast on Sept. 6.
Now we’ll see if anyone can harness Musk’s success at defying the odds, while reining in his excesses.