Tesla Motors poaches Renault-Nissan’s public relations boss

Tesla Motors’ latest hire is Simon Sproule. Currently Renault-Nissan’s director of communications, he will become the electric carmaker’s new vice president of communications and marketing beginning in April.

According to InsideEVs, the move is viewed as an indication of Tesla’s arrival as a true global automotive player as Renault-Nissan isn’t just an established automaker, but also Tesla’s main rival in the electric-car market.

Hiring Sproule may indeed be an indication of Tesla’s maturity, but not for such self-aggrandizing reasons.

Tesla essentially has no public relations department. It keeps things like sales numbers and future plans secret, while releasing the small amounts of information it deems suitable for public consumption mostly through the mouth (and keyboard) of CEO Elon Musk.

This policy hasn’t been entirely successful.

Musk handled several Model S fires well, but appeared petty and defensive in a protracted fight with The New York Times over a poor review of the company’s Supercharger fast-charging network, as well as two arguments with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The first involved Tesla’s claim that the Model S scored higher than the maximum five stars in the agency’s crash tests, and the second centered around the use of the word “recall” for a software update meant to fix overheating wall chargers.

simon-sproule

The man in the hot-seat.

Meanwhile, consumers are forced to wait for company-organized Q&A sessions for any substantial information on upcoming changes or new models.

While it’s too early to see if Sproule will adopt a more open approach, he will definitely have a crisis on his hands the moment he walks in the door.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) voted earlier this week to adopt new rules that would essentially outlaw Tesla’s company-owned stores in the Garden State.

The rule change requires car dealers to present a franchise agreement to the NJMVC. That would obviously be impossible in Tesla’s case, since dealer and manufacturer are one entity.

New Jersey is the latest state to present a legal roadblock to Tesla’s direct-sales model, which eliminates the traditional franchised dealership in favor of Apple-like retail spaces and online ordering.

Not surprisingly, this has irked car dealers.

Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Virginia have already banned this practice, but anti-Tesla legislation was struck down in Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and New York. A legal battle in Ohio is ongoing.

Tesla has previously hired chief engineer Chris Porritt, who joined from British sports car manufacturer Aston Martin.

 

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