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After holding early-day calls with Tesla’s service, delivery and sales teams, Guillen would follow up throughout the day on their progress and to check on what help was needed. “The spreadsheets would become data that he would pass up to Elon every night,” Joseph said.
Tesla has struggled with executive turnover for years, in part due to Musk being a demanding boss and the pace of work being hectic even by Silicon Valley standards. Guillen took a several-months-long leave of absence from the company in 2015 but returned in 2016 to lead the company’s Semi truck program. Shortly after Guillen’s return, Musk lauded his track record at Daimler AG’s truck division, where he oversaw development of the Cascadia heavy duty semi trailer.
When Tesla first unveiled the Semi at a late-night party in November 2017, Guillen briefly spoke on stage before Musk rolled in with the trucks and stole the show with the unexpected next-generation Roadster. Tesla has said the Semi will begin production in 2019, but has yet to announce where it’ll be produced.
“Elon recognizes that he can’t do everything himself,” Gene Munster, a managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures, said by phone. “Promoting Jerome is a small step in what is a much bigger problem, which is retaining existing talent and recruiting new talent.”
Tesla’s board has been on the lookout for senior talent but not actively searching for a chief operating officer, a person familiar with the board’s thinking told Bloomberg News in August. Though Guillen is not a COO, auto operations remain the bulk of Tesla’s business, meaning his new role will loom large.
“It’s no secret that Musk has been overstressed and overworked, by his own admission, and certainly his erratic behaviour as of late would seem to reflect that,” Ed Kim, an analyst at car-consulting firm AutoPacific, said in an email.
“Guillen, as an eight-year veteran of Tesla, knows the company’s operations inside and out and should be more than able to oversee the company’s day-to-day activities. This should give Musk more bandwidth,” Kim said, as well as time to “regroup himself.”