Two key Tesla executives jump ship – stock market is not amused

Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s vice president and chief engineer, and Nick Sampson, who was in charge of vehicle and chassis engineering, left this month for personal reasons.

 

Tesla Motors announced Friday that two senior engineers have jumped out of the car, just months before their baby, the Model S sedan, is scheduled to go on sale. Is this a warning sign for the road ahead? The stock market thought so – Tesla shares screeched into reverse, and lost almost 20 percent for the day.

Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s vice president and chief engineer, and Nick Sampson, who was in charge of vehicle and chassis engineering, left this month for personal reasons (don’t they always?), according to a company spokesman. Be that as it may, “it doesn’t look good,” according to Jim Hall of automotive consulting firm 2953 Analytics. “And for Tesla, looks are very important at this point.”

From Wall Street, things looked downright ugly, as Tesla’s stock plummeted to close at $22.79 yesterday at the close, down 19.33 percent on a day when the broader market was almost flat. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, bless him, is not discouraged.

“Sometimes, it is not super fun to run a public company. The exec departure news at Tesla was way overstated,” said he. “The uncertainty around Model S is now much diminished, as anyone who has seen the beta vehicles and toured the factory will appreciate. There is no question in my mind that we will start delivering vehicles in July, if not sooner.”

Replacements for the two apostates have already been hired: Daimler alumnus Jerome Guillen and former Volkswagen executive Eric Bach.