• Social network’s new group is focused on hardware advances
  • Heley reported directly to Musk as Tesla’s VP of product

Facebook Inc. nabbed a top Tesla Motors Inc. executive to work at its new Building 8 research lab, another major hire for the group tasked with fast-paced development of hardware products.

Rich Heley, who was most recently vice president of product technology at Tesla, will report to Regina Dugan, a former Google executive whom Facebook hired in April to lead Building 8. A Facebook representative confirmed Heley’s hire, declining to give additional details.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook will be “investing hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars” into the hardware effort over time, as he aims to increase the pace of innovation at the world’s largest social network. Building 8 specifically focuses on creating new hardware products with aggressive timelines, teaming up with universities and divisions at Menlo Park, California-based Facebook to build upon their science and software.

The Building 8 research is meant to advance the social networking giant’s goals without overlapping with what it is doing at Oculus’s virtual-reality lab and its Internet.org lab for getting more people online around the world, which has already produced drones that deliver the internet via satellite.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Heley’s move.

Tesla’s Challenges

Heley, 36, joined Tesla from Apple Inc. in November 2013, according to his profile on LinkedIn. He reported directly to CEO Elon Musk and wore many hats, including serving as a judge at SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod Design Weekend at Texas A&M University in January.

Heley’s departure comes at a critical time for Tesla, which has ambitions of making 500,000 cars a year by 2018 -- two years earlier than originally planned -- but delivered just 50,658 vehicles in 2015 and missed its own sales estimates for the last two quarters. Musk has told investors that Tesla is “hell-bent on being the world’s best manufacturer” but has struggled with turnover in its manufacturing ranks. Greg Reichow, Tesla’s vice president of production and one of the highest-paid executives at the company, left in May.

U.S. regulators are also investigating a fatal Florida crash involving a Tesla Model S that was driving with the Autopilot semi-autonomous feature engaged, drawing scrutiny to a key technology that Musk revealed in October of last year.

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