Unlike most presidents, Tesla Motors CEO Ze'ev Drori didn't get to enjoy even a short honeymoon period after he started his term in November.
He joined the electric-sports-car company amid transmission-related delays, and -- just a few days later -- was faced with controversy as former CEO Martin Eberhard complained that he had been unceremoniously kicked out of the company (see Tesla Founder Ousted and Green Year in Review: Road to Green Transportation Proves Bumpy).
Then the company in January cut three senior executives and more than a dozen other employees, according to the San Jose Mercury News (see Tesla, Imperium Reduce Staff). And the first production car faced a minor setback when it missed a connecting flight in Amsterdam (see Missed Flight Gives Tesla Another Headache).
But Friday, things were looking up for the former CEO of semiconductor firm Monolithic Memories and auto-security company Clifford Electronics when Tesla's long-awaited, much-anticipated first production Roadster arrived at the company's offices in San Carlos, Calif., for delivery to Tesla Chairman Elon Musk (see First Tesla Production Roadster Arrives).
Drori said he was excited about the company's accomplishment and added that there's still plenty left to do to achieve its goal of high-volume production.
"We've not done it yet," he said. "This is the beginning, the very beginning."
What's the most difficult part?
"I'd have to bring the list," he joked. "There are a lot of them."
Drori discussed the management changes and Tesla's future strategy with Greentech Media at the event.
Q: What changes are you making from the previous management's strategy?
A: The main thing is to focus the company on what we need to do. Currently, we need to get the Roadster out in high volume. That's the focus of the company and my focus. I think the company was not focused on what it had to do. We all need to work on our objective at the same time.
Q: How much will it cost the company to upgrade the interim transmissions in the early production Roadsters to the production transmissions that will accelerate 0 to 60 in about four seconds?
A: We don't measure in terms of cost. We made a commitment to our customers and we abide by our commitment. [Editor's note: Colette Niazmand, operations manager of sales, marketing and service at Tesla, told Greentech Media that Tesla wasn't yet able to put a number to the amount the upgrades will cost the company, since the cost will depend on volume.]
Q: Are you going out for more money?
A: Of course. Companies always need money. We just concluded a private placement of $40 million and [aren't yet raising another round]. But aside from the Roadster, there's the Whitestar project, which is a substantial project, and we're putting together the plan for the financing right now.
Q: Have the Roadster setbacks delayed the release of the Whitestar family car? [Editors note: Musk said the company expects to make 20,000 to 30,000 of the four-door sedans per year. Drori also told CNET the Whitestar also will come in both all-electric and gas-electric hybrid versions.]
A: Not at all. The two projects are completely separate and going in two parallel paths. It's proceeding very well. And you soon will hear a very interesting thing about Whitestar.
Q: Can you tell us more about what that "very interesting thing" will be?
A: Whitestar is technically fully understood, because we're building on the knowledge we have built with the Roadster. … There are definitely no transmission issues. So [the upcoming news] is not so much about technology, but in relation to advances we are making in bringing it to life.
Q: Are you getting the second Roadster?
A: No, there's no favoritism here.
Q: Have you ordered one?
A: Not yet. I haven't ordered yet because the list is so long. But I will [order both the Roadster and the Whitestar]. And on the Whitestar, I will be way ahead of the line now. That's for sure.
Q: Have the recent management cuts resulted in any setbacks?
A: No, I think changes have advanced us, not set us back. The management changes were not capricious. After a very careful study and cross-referencing the information I had, I made that decision.
Q: Are you looking to fill some of those positions now?
A: Definitely yes. At this point, I'd rather not say [which positions]. But if someone thinks of themselves as that terrific and thinks they can make a difference, then have them contact me and we will hire them.