Tesla Inc. lost one of its senior manufacturing executives months ago, according to a person familiar with the matter, a loss that lengthens the list of departures during a harried period for the electric-car maker led by Elon Musk.
Gilbert Passin, Tesla’s vice president of manufacturing, left this summer, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel matters. Passin joined Tesla from Toyota Motor Corp. in early 2010.
Retaining senior managers has been one of Musk’s biggest challenges this year. Palo Alto-based Tesla has made major strides lately with manufacturing more electric vehicles, but Chief Executive Musk has been the source of major distractions, including a short-lived and legally precarious attempt to take the company private.
Executives who have left Tesla in recent months include the company’s chief accounting officer, the vice presidents of global supply management and worldwide finance, and the heads of human resources and communications.
Musk announced a series of promotions in September to fill several voids and named Jerome Guillen to the new position of automotive president. The chief executive has credited Guillen with helping Tesla achieve production progress with the Model 3 sedan, which may have recently exceeded the 100,000 mark after months of missed targets.
Business Insider reported on Passin’s departure earlier Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Tesla said it signed an agreement to secure land in Shanghai for its first factory outside the United States, pushing ahead with development as the U.S.-China trade war continues.
Tesla announced plans for the Shanghai factory in July after the Chinese government said it would end restrictions on full foreign ownership of electric-vehicle makers to speed up industry development. Those plans have gone ahead despite tariff hikes by the United States and China on billions of dollars of each other's goods in a dispute over Chinese technology policy. U.S. imports targeted by China’s penalties include electric cars.
China is the world's biggest global electric-vehicle market, and it's Tesla's second-largest after the United States.
Tesla said earlier that production in Shanghai would begin two to three years after construction of the factory begins and eventually increase to 500,000 vehicles annually.
Tesla — which has yet to turn profitable — has not named a price, but the Shanghai government said it would be the biggest foreign investment there to date. The company said in its second-quarter investor letter that construction is expected to begin within the next few quarters, with significant investment coming next year. Much of the cost will be funded with “local debt,” the letter said.