Even as Toyota’s crash-and-burn tactics in handling their unintended acceleration fiasco are dominating everyone’s browsers, Tesla Motors has gone and hired Toyota’s North American manufacturing chief and ex-vice-president of manufacturing at the Cambridge, Ontario Toyota plant that built the ill-fated Matrix and Corolla models subject to the recall. Tesla isn’t worried, though, since imaginary cars can’t cause fatal crashes.
Or at least that’s the only explanation for the hire we can divine. While we’re sure Gilbert Passin is a fine production engineer, he was also second in charge of the manufacturing team that produced two of the models subject to Toyota’s recall–and continued to do so until the company was forced to stop production by the government last week. Most recently, he was the general manager of production engineering for Toyota’s North American operations–again near the top of the problematic production pyramid. Of course, more went into the unintended acceleration problem than some poor manufacturing decisions, and there’s nothing to say Tesla’s corporate culture will fall victim to the same faults as Toyota’s, but it’s not exactly reassuring, either.
Tesla made news last week for revealing that production of the Roadster electric sports car would end as part of its SEC filings for its IPO. That will leave Tesla as a carmaker without a car to make for at least a year, as the Model S won’t enter full-scale production until 2012 at the earliest. A second-gen Roadster is planned for 2013, and more mass-market targeted cars are intended to follow.
But despite their recently-secured funding from the Department of Energy, it’s still an open question as to whether Tesla will ever produce cars on an industrial scale. Already facing delays in designing and building the Model S, and with a full year of zero production ahead, investors laying out cash for Tesla’s IPO will be taking a gamble–but arguably no more of a gamble than driving your recalled Toyota on the road, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. In that respect, at least, Tesla’s imaginary cars may have a leg up.