Contacted for comment, Tesla VP Darryl Siry explained that the team was not organized effectively and there weren't clear lines of responsibility. As a result, targets were missed and as we all know now the company failed to meet it's goal of customer deliveries in 2007. One example given was the engineering group that had four different areas with overlapping responsibilities. As a result, things fell through the cracks. The entire engineering staff has now been consolidated under Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel. The new management team went through an appraisal and ranking of all employees in the company. Those that were found not to be meeting the requirements of the jobs that needed to be done were let go.
Continuing reading about what's going on at Tesla after the jump.
[Sources: TeslaFoundersBlog, Tesla Motors]
While people were fired, the company is still hiring as evidenced by the list of job opportunities on the Tesla site. The goal was to create a more effective organization. While the investors in the company have put up a lot of money, it's clear that there is no endless pile of cash available. Tesla's management wants to get a great product out the door and make the company self-sustaining as any business should be. While the goal of producing environmentally friendly but exciting to drive cars is a worthy one, Tesla isn't a charity but a business. The reality that the people involved in Tesla have learned is that building cars is a tough road to travel.
As I have stated here before over the history of the automobile since Karl Benz's 1886 MotorWagen, far more car companies have sprung and failed than succeeded. With modern safety requirements and customer expectations, it's perhaps harder than ever before. Siry emphasized in our discussion that Tesla's management has no interest in selling out to another manufacturer and fully intends to stay independent. To do that they need the best team possible to accomplish the incredibly difficult task ahead of them.
The company's management team now feels they have a stronger, better-organized team with which to move forward in building a sustainable business. If people really want Tesla to help change the world the business needs to be on a sound footing and sustainable over the long haul. The recent actions of Tesla management certainly may seem harsh and capricious to some and it's certainly understandable that those who were fired would be upset. But it's not personal, it's just business.