What awaits and who replaces Simon Sproule at Nissan and Tesla

Simon Sproule at his last Nissan quarterly results conference in Yokohama

Polishing his resume: Simon Sproule at his last Nissan quarterly results conference in Yokohama

Simon Sproule’s departure from Nissan to Tesla is still sending seismic waves around the world, with people speculating what Sproule might be up to in Palo Alto, and who will replace him in Yokohama. We can’t add much more to the former, but a little to the latter.

At Tesla, Sproule will not complain of a lack of work. The company is going through the growing pains typical for a ten year old. Sproule, the consummate auto insider, is definitely what Tesla needs to navigate through adolescence.  Someone who could manage a Carlos Ghosn might have a chance to manage a Musk. It will be a chore.

Going from a glorified coachbuilder mode to mild mass production for the Model E will be a huge challenge for the company. Saab died producing the numbers of units Tesla wants to achieve. Suppliers laugh at you when you order 50,000 widgets, especially if you want them just-in-time. And that’s just the start of the challenges awaiting Sproule.

There are stories of Elon Musk breaking into tears about problems in the factory. The UAW wants back into Fremont. Toyota’s enthusiasm about their investment into Tesla has cooled markedly, and it’s not so much about the numbers as it is about twittering Musk. There is the tilting at the windmills of the NHTSA and state dealer laws. There are angel investors cashing in their stock – not that anyone would blame them at these lofty valuations. Musk needs a soft-spoken, hard-charging and polished person like Sproule, and Musk will get the most out of his investment in the man by giving Sproule all the space he needs – and possibly the password to Musk’s Twitter account.

As for who will replace Sproule in Yokohama, nothing is official yet. Informed sources in Yokohama watering holes say that the crater left by Sproule will remain largely unfilled, at least for a while.

Sproule basically had two jobs.

Sproule has been Corporate Vice President, Global Marketing Communications at Nissan since October 2010. Nissan runs PR and marketing communications jointly, and Sproule  was responsible for global marketing and corporate communications for Nissan worldwide. That function presumably will be assumed by Roel de Vries, Nissan’s  VP of global Marketing and Communications.  Jeff Kuhlman is rumored to be reporting directly to de Vries, instead through Sproule, as it was the case until yesterday.

Sproule also held the slightly less intense portfolio of  Marketing and Communications Director of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. That job is said to fall to current alliance communications director Rachel Konrad, while “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”  of the  Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is being cued in the background. Konrad was responsible for PR at Tesla, before she escaped to Paris.