Musk’s Army: The People at the Top of Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors Senior Management Team

It’s not often that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk shares the limelight with others. Even though it’s probably not his fault, he ends up soaking up every lumen of the spotlight possible. It could be his boyish, shy demeanor that hides a razor-sharp mind and an equally quick wit. Or it could be the fact that this man is upending several age-old industries in his lifetime. Whatever it is, it was a rare moment when Musk called his generals on stage at the annual shareholders meeting last month.

“Guys, you want to come up and hang out?” was all Musk said. No big introductions. No fuss.

Tesla Motors Senior Management Team

The “guys” in this case were just three members of his power team: CTO JB Straubel, whom he only introduced as JB, Robin Ren, who is currently taking care of Global Sales, and Gabrielle Toledano, head of personnel. Technically, a “gal” and technically, the Chief People Officer.

Toledano didn’t say anything at the meeting, but a few short weeks later she had her hands full with the ongoing 9% workforce cut that Tesla later announced.

Straubel is one of the backbones of Tesla’s tech efforts. He’s also on the board of directors of SolarCity and teaches Energy Storage Integration at Stanford University, his alma mater.

Ren is technically VP Asia Pacific according to his LinkedIn profile, but he’s currently the Interim VP of Global Sales. Also a Stanford alumnus, Ren has a technical background with companies like Yahoo, VMware and EMC. Here’s an old video of Ren on the Great Wall of China when he was CTO of XtremIO, his previous company. You do speak Mandarin with a smattering of Cantonese, don’t you? 🙂

And then there’s Deepak Ahuja, the company’s Chief Financial Officer. This is the man juggling millions in debt and liabilities with billions in potential earnings for the company that’s changing the automobile industry as we know it.

But possibly the least celebrated person whose work, ironically, is the most “out there” of all, is Chief Designer Franz Von Holzhausen. Everything from the second generation Tesla Roadster to the Model 3 came into being under his design leadership. Formerly with Mazda North American Operations, Holzhausen was also assistant design chief at Volkswagen in his early career, working with the legendary J Mays, who spearheaded the New Beetle “Concept One” project.

Tesla has a lot of other executives at the senior level, but the company deliberately fails to showcase them on its website, at its events and nearly everywhere else. Musk believes that the products are more important, but it’s ironical that he, himself, is the antithesis of that concept. By design or by destiny? You decide.