Two years ago, Tesla Motors was a struggling electric auto maker startup, backed by venture capitalists, hoping for government loans and trying to keep on schedule of getting its inaugural EV sports car into customers hands. Today, it was very clear during a rare tour of the company’s Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters, complete with factory and lab space, that the company, flush with its IPO proceeds, is spending a whole lot of money ramping up staff and developing the next-generation technology for its EV sedan the Model S, in order to achieve one major goal: cross the chasm from Valley startup into competing on the mainstream big auto stage.
One of the goals on the other side of that divide includes growing the company to close to 2,000 employees by the time the Model S goes on sale by the end of 2012: over double of what the staff size is today, executives noted during the tour. Peter Rawlinson, Tesla’s VP and chief engineer said the company is picking off the best from the auto industry, Formula One racing, suspension design, etc., during a talk about the Model S design.
On the factory floor, Jason Mendez, manager...