Tesla Picks Robyn Denholm To Chair Board Of Directors As Sales Boom

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As part of his settlement with the Securities & Exchange Commission last month, Elon Musk agreed to step aside as chairman of the Tesla board of directors for a period of three years. Tesla has just announced the appointment of Robyn Denholm to succeed Elon as board chair. Here is the full announcement from the company:

Tesla’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Robyn Denholm has been appointed as Chair of the Tesla Board, effective immediately. So that she will be able to devote her full attention to the Tesla Chair role, Robyn will be leaving her role as CFO and Head of Strategy at Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, once her six-month notice period with Telstra is complete. Robyn will be serving as Tesla Chair on a full-time basis.

To ensure a smooth transition during the remainder of Robyn’s time at Telstra, Elon will be a resource to Robyn and provide any support that she requests in her role as Chair. Robyn will continue to provide the necessary focus and time to Telstra during the remainder of her time there, and she will also temporarily step down as Chair of Tesla’s Audit Committee until she leaves Telstra.

Robyn has served on the Tesla Board as an independent director since 2014. Her global experience in both Australia and Silicon Valley encompasses leadership roles across a range of technology companies, including Telstra, Juniper Networks, and Sun Microsystems. She is widely credited with leading a team that drove significant increases in Juniper’s revenues, overseeing Juniper’s corporate transformation during her nine-year tenure as Chief Financial and Operations Officer. Her experience also includes numerous finance management roles in the automotive industry while at Toyota.

“I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Elon and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value,” Robyn said.

“Robyn has extensive experience in both the tech and auto industries, and she has made significant contributions as a Tesla Board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” said Elon. “I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”

Denholm was born in New South Wales, Australia, and was introduced to automobiles at an early age at her parents’ service facility. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, industrial relations, and accounting from the University of Sydney in 1985 and a master’s degree in commerce from the University of New South Wales in 1999.

An Exciting Time For Tesla

Denholm will be at the helm at an exciting time for Tesla as it transitions from being a niche player in the automotive industry to an established manufacturer. In recent months, the Model 3 has been the fourth best selling sedan in America. Notice none of the sedans manufactured by American companies made the top 15 in sales in Q3.

“We really can’t brush them aside anymore,” says Tim Fleming, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Their sales really kicked up with the production of the Model 3.” Tesla’s market share has increased from 0.5% at this time last year to 2.1% in September. KBB tells Wired that other brands — particularly Jeep and Subaru — have seen similar increases recently, but they needed more than 4 years to pull it off. Tesla did it in 8 months.

In the luxury car market, Tesla sold more cars in Q3 than such stalwarts as Audi, Acura, Cadillac, Infiniti, and Volvo. With the overall market dominated by light trucks and SUVs of every description, one can only wonder what will happen when the Tesla Model Y crossover hits the market, probably sometime in 2020.

What Will Elon Do With His Spare Time?

Now that he will no longer chair the Tesla board of directors, will Elon have time on his hands? Will he wake in the morning wondering how to fill the hours in his day? Fear not, intrepid Teslascenti! Elon is still the company’s CEO and is still hard at work expanding Tesla’s presence in the energy storage business, reaching for the stars at SpaceX, boring holes in the Earth under every major city on every continent, and taming the baser instincts of artificial intelligence.

Since it is unlikely the US government will develop a credible response to a warming planet anytime soon, it will be up to people like Musk to do through commerce what cannot be done through politics. That should be enough to keep him fully occupied most days.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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