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Tesla’s veteran problem solver Jerome Guillen is Elon Musk’s most strategic appointment yet

Tesla President, Automotive Jerome Guillen [Photo: Timothy Artman via La Provence]

Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a series of strategic promotions that are aimed at taking the company to reach new heights in the years to come. Among the promotions, Elon Musk’s appointment of veteran accomplisher Jerome Guillen as the company’s new President of Automotive stood out. As the end of the third quarter approaches, it is starting to look like Elon Musk’s promotion of the hands-on executive was the correct strategy.

Jerome Guillen joined Tesla back in 2010 as the director of the Model S program. Prior to his employment at Tesla, Jerome served as the project leader for Daimler’s Freightliner Cascadia program, and eventually as head of the company’s Business Innovation unit. By the time he left for Tesla, Daimler’s Business Innovation unit was profitable and self-funding.

When Jerome joined the electric car maker, Tesla was still a fledgling startup that only produced and delivered a small number of its two-door Roadster to a select group of customers. Being the first vehicle that the company designed from the ground up, a lot was riding on the Model S, particularly as critics of the company were quick to dismiss the electric car as “vaporware.” Guillen was a hands-on executive, and for some early customers of the Model S, he became the go-to person when issues arose.

Jerome Guillen poses with Tesla owner at Mt Shasta Supercharger, CA [Credit: jay-bay/TMC]

And issues did arise. When Tesla started delivering the Model S to reservation holders, the company lacked sufficient sales and service centers. Tesla was delivering vehicles directly to people’s homes, and while this worked well for the first few hundred handovers in California, it became a big logistical headache for the company when customers from faraway states started ordering the electric car. Elon Musk, for his part, opted to have Jerome add sales, service, and deliveries to his portfolio. The hands-on executive handled the task well, even developing a reputation for being incredibly responsive to emails and concerns from regular customers.

Early Model S adopter Andrew Wolfe of Los Gatos, California noted in a statement to Bloomberg that he was among the customers who were in constant communication with the executive. Wolfe noted that Jerome was always open to suggestions, such as where Tesla should consider opening additional service centers, as well as the company’s points for improvement in terms of loaner vehicles.

Jerome’s work with the Model S program would ultimately help lay the groundwork for the company’s following vehicles, the Model X SUV and later, the Model 3. The executive briefly took a leave of absence from the company in 2015, but later returned to head the Tesla Semi program. Over the past months, sightings of the Semi across the United States would feature Jerome from time to time, accompanying the long-hauler’s hand-built alpha prototype on its road tests. 

The Tesla Semi at UPS’ Addison Hub. [Credit: IllinoisUPSers/Twitter]

While he was heading the Tesla Semi program, Jerome’s out-of-the-box problem-solving skills would prove useful for the company’s overall operations. Back in June, Tesla made headlines when Elon Musk revealed that a new Model 3 assembly line had been set up inside a sprung structure on the grounds of the Fremont factory. The line, dubbed as GA4, was ultimately responsible for giving the company’s production the boost it needed to hit its target of producing 5,000 Model 3 a week before the end of the second quarter. Analysts from Evercore ISI who toured the Fremont factory later noted that GA4 “looked very much like general assembly at other auto plants which we have visited,” and that the “facility looks set to be permanent and in theory should be able to support much faster cycle times.” As Elon Musk would later reveal, GA4 was Jerome Guillen’s brainchild.

The appointment of an executive such as Jerome as the President of Automotive could prove to be Elon Musk’s most strategic move this third quarter. At this point in Tesla’s growth, with hundreds of thousands of reservations in line for the Model 3, the company is pretty much in a situation similar to the one it faced when it was struggling to deliver the Model S to customers across the US. From this perspective, at least, Jerome Guillen appears to be the right man for the job.

It remains to be seen what Jerome’s full responsibilities are now that he is serving as President of Automotive, but amidst Tesla’s end-of-quarter delivery push for the Model 3, the company has begun adopting some out-of-the-box solutions for its current logistical problems. In a recent tweet, for example, Elon Musk noted that Tesla is experiencing a bottleneck in the car carrier trailers transporting vehicles from the Fremont factory to its delivery centers. To help address this issue, Musk stated that Tesla has begun building its own car carriers to help foster quicker deliveries. This is speculation, but such an unorthodox solution carries some very Jerome Guillen-like undertones. 

Tesla’s veteran problem solver Jerome Guillen is Elon Musk’s most strategic appointment yet
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