If there’s a better symbol of OEM brain drain than Mike Donoughe, I’m not aware of it (but let me know in the comments). Eighteen months ago he was Chrysler’s “star engineer” tasked with leading development of much-needed Sebring/Avenger replacements. He left ChryCo in what appeared to be a clash with senior management, and we’re still waiting for new models to take the place of the gruesome twosome. His next stop was Tesla where he became the head of manufacturing and engineering in July 2008. Within months Donoughe had survived a vicious purge (by txt!), and probably began planning his exit. Having announced his plans to leave Tesla for product development firm St. Clair Consortium, Donoughe is leaving another OEM just as they appear to need him most.
“I’ve worked to improve the quality and production process for the Roadster,” Donoughe tells the Detriot News. “As we’re moving forward with the Model S, this seemed like a logical point to make the change.” Except that Tesla is still looking for its first factory, and the Model S will be a production challenge the like of which Tesla has never seen. CEO Elon Musk may claim Donoughe is “leaving the company on very solid footing and at a logical time in Tesla’s phenomenal growth curve,” but if Tesla can afford to lose anyone with real development and production process experience, it’s news to us. And the conventional wisdom was always that Donoughe was hired to develop the Model S because he’s one of the few people at Tesla with long-term auto industry experience. Tesla still has not announced a new head of manufacturing operations.