- Tesla CEO Elon Musk has yet again run afoul of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
- After tweeting that Tesla would produce 500,000 vehicles in 2019, Musk later corrected himself to 400,000 – but the SEC asked that he be held in contempt of his 2018 settlement with the agency.
- It’s not out of the question that the government could fine Musk and Tesla or seek Musk’s removal as CEO.
- Here are some candidates who could take his place.
Things had finally settled down at Tesla. Kind of, sort of. After delivering about 250,000 vehicles last year, the company was focused in working out the production kinks for its Model 3 sedan and on getting cars to China.
Then CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla would make around 500,000 vehicles in 2019, 100,000 more than some versions of Tesla’s guidance suggested. He later corrected himself: Tesla would achieve a production rate that could yield half a million vehicles annually – but a 400,000 number was more like it.
The Securities and Exchange commission pounced, asking a court to hold Musk in contempt of his settlement with the agency over his 2018 go-private tweet. The CEO is supposed to clear with his board and lawyers any communications that might have a material impact on Tesla’s stock price.
He could be fined – or forced to step down as CEO (an extreme penalty, but not an inconceivable one). Here are four leaders who could take his place:
Tesla tech chief JB Straubel.
Straubel has been with Tesla since 2004 and is widely considered to be the most important employee at the company, after Musk. The Stanford grad concentrates on the rather intense electrical engineering challenges that Tesla faces, from batteries to Superchargers.
If you were to look inside Tesla for an internal succession plan – not that one has ever been outlined – you’d think of Straubel as the obvious candidate. He’s been with the carmaker for over a decade and knows everything about how it operates. If for whatever reason Musk stepped down or was forced out, Straubel could easily take over.
The big question is whether he would want to. Tesla has experienced significant turnover in its history, but Straubel has been remarkably consistent, works well with Musk, and have been through many crises.
SpaceX President and CTO Gwynne Shotwell.
Gwynne Shotwell is the COO of SpaceX, the other company that Musk is CEO of. Throughout his controversies in 2018, she was routinely named among the best candidates to assist or replace Musk.
That’s largely because Musk respects the Northwestern grad, who’s both an engineer and a mathematician, not to mention a skilled manager, overseeing the day-to-day operations of SpaceX’s launch business.
Former Chevy Volt leader and Fisker Automotive CEO Tony Posawatz.
It’s unlikely that any seasoned executive from the traditional auto industry would take the Tesla CEO job, given that the company tends to do things its own way.
An exception might by Posawatz, a General Motors veteran who brought the innovative gas-electric hybrid Chevy Volt to market 2010 and then jumped to Tesla rival Fisker Automotive in 2012 – right before the company went bankrupt in 2013.
He’s been out of the mainstream of the car business for a few years, but he knows how to run innovative electric car programs and has been a excellent advocate for the technology.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik.
Not gonna happen, but Krafcik is among the most respected and experienced leaders the auto industry has ever produced. He actually got his start in the 1980s at what’s now Tesla’s Fremont, CA factory – it was then called NUMMI and was a joint venture by General Motors and Toyota to bring so-called “lean manufacturing” the US car industry.
He later saw Hyundai through the financial crisis, as the head of its North American operations.
When Google hired him in 2015 to be CEO of what was then known as a the Google Car project, later Waymo, it was a signal that Google was serious about bringing its self-driving technology to market.
Nobody in the transportation business so fully combines Krafick’s background with big auto and big tech.
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