May 16, 2018, by Dana Hull and Mark Chediak
Tesla Inc.’s energy unit has lost two leaders, adding to departures at the electric-car maker while CEO Elon Musk readies a reorganization of the top management team, according to people familiar with the matter.
Arch Padmanabhan, the product director for Tesla’s stationary storage unit, and Bob Rudd, a former SolarCity vice president who led North American commercial and utility sales, have both left the company, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly. Tesla didn’t immediately comment on the departures. Padmanabhan confirmed that he left last month and is working on a new venture, declining to comment beyond that. Rudd couldn’t be reached for comment.
Several of the money-losing company’s top leaders have been leaving. Matthew Schwall, Tesla’s primary contact with U.S. regulators, left to join Waymo, the self-driving-car company started by Google. Jim Keller, head of the driver-assistance system Autopilot, left last month for Intel Corp. Two top financial executives left in March, and sales chief Jon McNeil defected to Lyft Inc. in February. Musk told employees in an email on Monday that he’s “flattening” Tesla’s management structure to improve communication.
Tesla listed only four executive officers in its recent proxy statement: Musk, Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja, Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel and engineering chief Doug Field, who’s taking a break from the company.
The automaker’s stock fell for a fourth straight day as the drumbeat of bad news persisted, including a bearish note from Morgan Stanley about Tesla’s manufacturing struggles. With a drop of 2.7 percent, Tesla’s losing streak is now the longest since March 20, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Tesla has used its lithium-ion battery technology to position itself as a key player in the emerging energy-storage market that supplements and may ultimately threaten the traditional electric grid. Musk first announced that Tesla was working on a home battery — now known as the “Powerwall” — during an earnings call in February 2015. Since then, Tesla has acquired solar-panel installer SolarCity Corp., where Musk was also chairman. The combined company was approaching headcount of 40,000 employees at the end of 2017.
States including California and New York see energy storage as a critical tool to better manage the electric grid, integrate a growing amount of solar and wind power, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tesla has partnered with Southern California Edison to provide batteries at the utility’s Mira Loma substation.