Tesla's Work Culture Claims Latest Victim: General Counsel

February 20, 2019

By Carlo Versano

The revolving door in Tesla's Palo Alto executive suite continues to spin. Dane Butswinkas is the latest high-ranking employee to leave the electric-car maker. Butswinkas had worked as general counsel for just two months and said in a statement he was returning to his former law firm in Washington, where he will advise Tesla as an outside counsel. The longtime trial lawyer was said to find Tesla to be a poor cultural fit, according to the WSJ.

Tesla said it would elevate Jonathan Change, vice president of legal, to the general counsel role.

The executive shuffling is just the latest in a string of high-profile departures at the company as it pushes to hit its production targets on the Model 3. Butswinkas' tenure was among the shortest ー but the record to beat remains that of Dave Morton, the former chief accounting officer who bailed after less than a month on the job. Morton replaced Eric Branderiz, who left the job after a year-and-a-half.

In January, Tesla's CFO, Deepak Ahuja, announced he would retire for the second time. Ahuja had previously worked at the company before retiring in 2015, only to come back in 2017.

Last year, Tesla's human resources chief, Gaby Toledano, also decided not to return to the company after taking leave, and Jon McNeill left as head of sales and service for a job at Lyft. They were two of 41 executives at the company who quit in 2018.

Meanwhile, CEO Elon Musk's penchant for premature tweeting raised eyebrows again, when he corrected his prediction that the company would produce 500,000 cars this year. He said he meant to tweet that Tesla would be making 500,000 cars at an annual rate by the end of 2019. Expected deliveries for the calendar year remain at 400,000.

Around the same time those tweets went out, Electrek reported that Tesla was gearing up to launch leasing options for the Model 3 as a way to boost demand for the vehicle, which has a sticker price of $44,000.