Tesla taps Audi executive as vice president of vehicle production

A Tesla logo on a Model S is photographed inside of a Tesla dealership in New York, U.S., April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

(Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc TSLA.O said on Friday it hired Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE executive Peter Hochholdinger as its vice president of vehicle production.

Hochholdinger will be tasked with improving and increasing production for Tesla’s luxury Model S sedan and Model X sport utility vehicle, as well as helping build a scalable, cost-effective manufacturing program specifically designed for the Model 3, the company said in a statement.

Tesla is looking to ramp up production five-fold in two years to 500,000 vehicles per year, a task many industry observers say appears nearly impossible even with the hiring of key talent.

The electric-auto maker’s aggressive new production timeframe, announced by its chief executive, Elon Musk, in a first-quarter earnings call, puts intense pressure on suppliers and calls into question the company’s ability to accelerate its assembly line. Design of the Model 3, due in late 2017, is not yet complete, adding to the time crunch.

Musk earlier this month also gave a public shout-out to the sharpest minds in manufacturing, calling on them to come help Tesla meet its target, days after announcing the departure of the company’s vice presidents in charge of production and manufacturing.

Hochholdinger spent 22 years at Audi, Volkswagen’s flagship premium brand, where he worked across the entire production chain. He served as an adviser for bringing Audi’s new production facility online in Mexico.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco and Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler