Tesla loses top manager while Corona hits Fremont


Robin Ren has left Tesla now vacating the position of Vice President of Business Development. More locally, Tesla’s Fremont plant reportedly has 6 Covid-19 cases and workers complaining of unsafe conditions. Meanwhile, in Germany, Tesla presented the required amended application documents for the construction of Giga Berlin.

Although no official or public statements have been made about the departure of one of Tesla’s top managers, Robin Ren has confirmed his departure from Tesla on his LinkedIn profile. So far there are no signs of a replacement. Ren joined Tesla in June 2015 as Vice President for the Asia-Pacific region. In 2018, Ren became Vice President of the Worldwide Sales Department before assuming responsibility for Business Development as Vice President in May 2019.

In his initial position for the Asia Pacific region, Ren had a significant influence on Tesla’s business in China and the company’s relationship with the Chinese government. Ren apparently created the conditions for Tesla to obtain approval to build Gigafactory 3 near Shanghai without requiring a Chinese joint venture partner.

While Ren was involved in agreements around Tesla’s Shanghai factory, Elon Musk commented that “Robin is doing a great job running worldwide sales, lots of work done. He was born and raised in Shanghai and has been, along with Tom and Grace and others from the team in China, has been sort of instrumental in establishing the China factory and making sure that gets done right and having a great relationship with the government.”

According to Gasgoo Tesla catches a lot of public attention in China. The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) reported that in May just passed, Tesla’s China-built Model 3 was the best-selling BEV model with a sales volume of 11,095 units. This marks an increase of 205% from April this year when sales slumped. On these statistics, Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the CPCA, noted that the downturn in its April sales was an abnormal one, while the May figures were a normal performance for Tesla usually marks a sales volume of 10,000 units on a monthly basis.

First employees in Fremont tested positive

Back home in California, a Tesla employee confirmed to Electrek that a total of four employees working on the assembly line for the Model S and Model X in Fremont tested positive for Covid-19. It is unclear whether the employees were infected with the virus inside or outside the plant, but given the alleged proximity of their workplaces, the latter seems likely – photographs indicate that Tesla is violating the distance regulations at meetings negotiated with representatives of Alameda County.

Soon after, The Washington Post said that a number of employees informed journalists that “several cases of coronavirus” have been reported. According to one of the employees, there are also said to have been two cases in the nearby seat assembly, which, in combination with the four cases in the assembly plant, adds up to six cases. What the positive cases mean for production at Tesla is not yet clear. In US media, however, workers had criticized the conditions of the hygiene concept in the factory.

A worker told Electrek yesterday: “We’re still working on top of each other. All they do is make us wear a mask in a hot factory. They take our temperature and have us use hand sanitizer when we walk in. But obviously, that isn’t working.” Elon Musk caused an uproar when he sent workers back to work without the approval of local authorities. So far Tesla has refused to comment on the recently reported six cases of Covid-19.

In Germany, Tesla responds to required changes

According to the Ministry of the Environment of Brandenburg, “the project developer has supplemented the documents for the approval procedure under the Federal Immission Control Act for the Tesla Gigafactory in Grünheide, which has been ongoing since 20 December 2019”. According to the ministry, the changes contained therein are based on objections by environmental associations and affected citizens, and “in the progress of the planning, findings have been made which make adjustments necessary”.

The latter was the case, for example, “due to previously unrecognisable foundation problems”; here the applicant considers the use of pile foundations to be necessary. Other points concern the much-discussed water consumption of the factory, and Tesla has now reduced the planned water consumption in the application documents as announced. “In addition, changes have been made to the plant design in order to make more efficient use of the space available,” the communication states.

The newly submitted documents are currently being reviewed by the State Office for the Environment and will be made public online as well as being submitted to the approval authority. Subsequently, further objections to the construction project are possible, but only to the amended passages. According to the Ministry, the 370 objections already submitted are still valid. The discussion date set for March is to be made up for in September, “provided that the regulations then in force allow it”.

electrek.co, gasgoo.com (Robin Ren), electrek.co, businessinsider.com, washingtonpost.com (Corona at Fremont), brandenburg.de (in German)


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