Tesla Hopes Hiring 1,656 People Will Make It Profitable

  • Autopilot jobs reporting to Musk among hundreds on website
  • Retail outlets opening in Mexico City, Edinburgh this week

Tesla’s Hiring Spree: More Than 1600 Positions Open

Need a job? Not too particular about whether the company is profitable? Check out Tesla’s website.

The maker of electric cars and energy-storage devices had 1,656 job openings posted as of Monday afternoon. Among them: a radar engineer with one to three years of experience with automotive radar systems; a manager to establish a service operation in Mexico City; product specialists in cities from Amsterdam and Milan to Shanghai and Chengdu.

After losing $1.88 billion since 2007, Tesla is piling on the personnel as it offers more models, builds the world’s biggest battery factory and expands globally, including stores opening this week in Mexico City and Edinburgh. For the youngest publicly traded U.S. automaker, it’s a race to grow without jeopardizing Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s push to turn cash-flow positive in next year’s first quarter.

“During 2016 Tesla will face a balancing act of funding its rapid growth aspirations and showing the market its ability to deliver profits,” said Ben Kallo, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. “Workforce expansion across all divisions is necessary” given all the tasks ahead in both the carmaking and battery businesses, he said.

Since the end of 2010, the year of its initial public offering, Tesla’s headcount has already grown 15-fold -- comparable to the increase in its enterprise value -- to more than 14,000. Five years ago, the Palo Alto, California-based company sold only one car, a limited edition Roadster, and only in the U.S. Now it sells two electric models on three continents and Tesla Energy, which offers stationary battery systems for home, business and utility use, is its own business unit.

Of course, the nation’s youngest publicly traded automaker is still a pipsqueak compared with giants such as General Motors Co., which had 216,000 employees at the end of 2014 to operate 10 automotive brands around the world as well as the OnStar telematics unit.

Rapid hiring is typical for fast-growing companies. Tesla, which began delivering the first of its Model X SUVs in late September, says it will deliver at least 50,000 vehicles this year, including 17,000 to 19,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter.

Tesla’s Hiring Spree: More Than 1600 Positions Open

Autopilot Team

At an October event marking the release of self-driving features that Tesla calls Autopilot, Musk said autonomy and electrification are the two “most profound innovations” in the auto industry. All Tesla cars shipped since the fourth quarter of 2014 are equipped with the combination of camera, radar and ultrasonic sensors that enable functions such as adaptive cruise control or automated lane-changing.

That was when Musk said Tesla’s headcount was more than 14,000. When asked the size of the Autopilot unit, Musk said it was a small team.

“In terms of people just working on Autopilot software, it’s maybe 50 people,” Musk said at the October event. “In terms of those working on the Autopilot hardware suite, it’s maybe a little bigger. Maybe 100 people, something like that? It will increase over time, but generally with software you can get amazing things done with small teams. And a small team will do much more radical improvements than a big team.”

Last month, Musk told his almost 3 million Twitter followers that he’s building up the team to work on fully autonomous cars.

“We are looking for hardcore software engineers. No prior experience with cars required,” said Musk in a tweet. “Should mention that I will be interviewing people personally and Autopilot reports directly to me. This is a super high priority.”

With Apple Inc. said to be developing an electric vehicle, Google Inc. working on its self-driving car and startups like San Francisco-based Cruise Automation on the scene, automotive engineers of all kinds are in hot demand in Silicon Valley. But Tesla says it remains flooded with job applicants, with everyone at the company essentially acting as a recruiter for top talent.

“In the last 14 months we’ve had 1.5 million applications from around the world,” Arnnon Geshuri, Tesla’s vice president of human resources, said in a phone interview. “People want to work here.”

Executive Hires

To manage all of this growth, Tesla -- which doesn’t have a chief operating officer -- is also adding seasoned executives.

During last month’s third-quarter earnings call with analysts, Musk announced the hiring of Jason Wheeler, formerly of Google, as chief financial officer to replace the retiring Deepak Ahuja and Jon McNeill, the former CEO of Enservio, as head of global sales and service.

“I’m pretty excited about those two people joining the team, and we expect to have some additional announcements in the months to come as we add bench strength to the Tesla management team,” said Musk.

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