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Tesla’s former VP of Manufacturing is going to build all-electric buses at Proterra


Josh Ensign, until recently Tesla’s Vice President of Manufacturing, left the automaker in somewhat of a controversy earlier this year when it was reported that himself and Vice President of Production Greg Reichow, two of the top manufacturing executives at Tesla, were let go following what CEO Elon Musk later referred to as the “production hell” of the first half of 2016 due to a difficult Model X ramp up.

Tesla denied that their departures had anything do with the Model X production issues. The company soon after hired Peter Hochholdinger, Audi’s Senior Director of Production, to lead vehicle manufacturing.

Now we learn that Ensign is staying in the electric vehicle manufacturing business. It was announced today that he is joining all-electric bus maker Proterra as Chief Operating Officer.

Before joining Tesla in 2014, Ensign, a US Army veteran, joined Honeywell after retiring from the forces in 2003. He spent over a decade with the company in several manufacturing roles, more recently as VP of Integrated Supply Chain, before leaving for Tesla about 2 years ago, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Proterra is based in Greenville, South Carolina, where its main manufacturing facility is located. Ensign’s job at the electric bus maker will be to scale the manufacturing operations at the plant, but also to bring its new Los Angeles County facility and battery manufacturing operations online in early 2017.

The company wrote in a press release announcing the hire today:

“Under Ensign’s leadership, Proterra expects to triple production in its East Coast facility and initiate production in Southern California in 2017.”

The same press release explains his former job at Tesla in more details:

“As vice president of manufacturing at Tesla Motors, Ensign was responsible for all manufacturing activities at the Fremont, California production site. This included the installation of the current Model S high volume production line, the launch of both the dual-motor platform and the Model X, and the establishment of Tesla’s new seat manufacturing facility.”

Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra and himself a former executive at Tesla, sees a lot of value in Ensign’s experience in ramping up production as the company is entering a “high-growth period”:

“Keeping pace with mounting customer demand is a tall order, but we are confident in Ensign’s ability to lead Proterra’s operations through this high-growth period. We are very pleased to have him at the helm of Catalyst vehicle production. His operational expertise is exactly what Proterra needs to bring the Catalyst mainstream and to maintain our pursuit of a clean, diesel-free future.”

Proterra claims to have sold over 312 electric buses to date and that sales are up 220% since last year. Its vehicles in operation right now have logged in over 2.5 million miles. It expects to significantly grow in the next year thanks in part to it recently unveiled Catalyst E2 all-electric bus with 350 miles of range on massive 660 kWh battery.


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