Californian automaker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] suffered a 19.33 percent drop in share price on Friday last week after it announced two of its key engineers had departed the company months before its 2012 Model S was due to go on sale. 

Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s vice president and chief engineer, along with Nick Sampson -- who supervised vehicle and chassis engineering on the luxury sedan -- left the firm earlier this month. 

According to Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes, Rawlinson -- an English engineer who had previously been chief engineer to Lotus Cars -- had resigned his post to “tend to personal matters in the U.K.” 

Reyes also disclosed that Sampson -- a former Jaguar and Lotus Cars engineer -- had “fully transitioned” off the Model S team before leaving the company. 

When we spoke with Rawlinson last year, he described engineering the 2012 Model S as “difficulty cubed,” thanks to the sheer number of engineers working on the car and the tight time constraints placed on them to meet production deadlines. 

While Tesla may have lost two of its key Model S engineers, CEO Elon Musk remains calm about the automaker’s promises to bring the Model S to market in July this year. 

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

“The uncertainty around Model S is now much diminished, as anyone who has seen the beta vehicles and toured the factory will appreciate,” he said in a statement last week. “There is no question in my mind that we will start delivering vehicles in July, if not sooner.”

Tesla has already taken steps to ensure that replacements are found for both men, hiring former Daimler executive Jerome Guillen to assume Rawlinson’s duties and former Volkswagen executive Eric Bach to “help in the final stretch of bringing Model S into production.”

At the present time, Tesla has not disclosed any more information surrounding the departure of both engineers, but has scheduled a company update call for tomorrow at which it will offer an update on its planned 2012 Model S production schedule as well as “a discussion of recent personnel changes.” 

We’ll be joining in the conference call tomorrow, so stay tuned for more information about both Tesla and the 2012 Model S as soon as we have it. 


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