Tesla Hires Audi Assembly Veteran as Musk Seeks Output Surge

  • Peter Hochholdinger led production of Audi’s A4, A5 and Q5
  • CEO’s new goal is 10-fold boost two years earlier than planned

Tesla Motors Inc., the electric-car maker run by billionaire Elon Musk, hired Audi AG’s Peter Hochholdinger to help oversee production as it seeks to boost vehicle output about 10-fold by 2018.

Hochholdinger will be vice president of vehicle production, Tesla said Friday in an e-mailed statement. He’ll be expected to boost production of Model S and Model X cars while building a manufacturing program for the new Model 3, Tesla said.

“Tesla is excited to have Peter join the team,” the company said in the statement.

Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer, stunned investors last week when he announced that the company aims to make 500,000 vehicles by 2018 -- two years sooner than originally planned. Tesla delivered just 50,658 vehicles in 2015. Vehicle output might reach 1 million by the end of the decade, Musk said on the first-quarter earnings call.

Tesla’s production ambitions aren’t playing well on Wall Street. Barclays Plc analyst Brian Johnson has projected a $3 billion equity offering in the second quarter, calling Tesla “more of a cash-hungry startup unicorn than a traditional public company.” The shares fell 13 percent this year through Friday, pointing toward the first full-year drop since Tesla’s initial public offering in 2010.

Two top manufacturing executives, including Tesla’s global production chief, already are leaving the automaker. Those changes, which were disclosed earlier this month, pushed the number of vice president-level departures this year to five.

Hochholdinger spent 22 years working across the Audi manufacturing chain and was responsible for leading the production of the A4, A5 and Q5 vehicles, according to Tesla’s statement. Audi is the luxury-car manufacturer owned by Volkswagen AG.

Tesla makes the all-electric Model S sedan and Model X SUV on a shared assembly line in Fremont, California. The Model X’s rollout has been marred by consumer complaints about sensors on the falcon-wing doors, and 2,700 Model X vehicles were recalled over safety concerns with the third-row seats.

On March 31, Tesla revealed a prototype of the Model 3, a more affordable car that is slated to have a range of at least 215 miles per charge and start at $35,000. Consumer interest in the Model 3 has been high, with about 400,000 pre-orders at $1,000 each.

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