Former SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive to leave Tesla

Dive Brief:

  • Former SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive will step down as head of Tesla's sales and services for the company's energy division in June, according to Reuters. His departure follows another high-profile exit of former SolarCity policy chief Jon Wellinghoff.  
  • Rive began working for Tesla following its widely-watched acquisition of SolarCity in late 2016. His leadership was key to guiding SolarCity to its place as the largest solar installer in the country after helping design innovative financing options. 
  • Rive told Reuters more family time and plans for opening a new company next year were behind his decision to leave the electric vehicle maker, owned by his cousin Elon Musk. 

Dive Insight:

Rive told Reuters that SolarCity, under the Tesla brand was "healthier than it's ever been," despite fairly poor financial reports before and after Tesla's purchase of the solar company. 

Tesla's $2.6 billion acquisition was widely seen as a bailout for the financially-embattled company following poor performance and negative policy decisions impacting net metering—a pricing mechanism designed to compensate rooftop solar users for exporting excess energy and a key part of SolarCity's value proposition.

Just before the deal was completed, Tesla announced a new solar roof offering incumbent upon the merger going through. In its first financial report after the deal,  SolarCity announced it was trimming the fat from its advertising and sales techniques to focus on profitability rather than growth. Part of the strategy includes a reduction in advertising spending, selling SolarCity products in Tesla stores and shifting away from its leasing model as well as ending door-to-door sales.

Reuters noted the company was a key part in growing the residential sector since its founding in 2006. But the past two years have proven particularly hard for the company after key solar states, such as Arizona and Nevada, ended or reduced their net metering compensation schemes. Nevada's decision to gut its policy propelled SolarCity to exit the state entirely.

SolarCity hired Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in an effort to nurture collaborative relationships with utilities that it frequently clashed with in state policy battles. But Wellinghoff also departed the company earlier this year and formed his own consulting firm, which E&E News reports has Tesla as a client. 

It's hard to tell what Tesla Energy's strategy will look like in the coming months now that two key players are gone. SolarCity's former Chief Technical Officer Pete Rive will stay on board to help with the solar roof offering, Reuters noted, with Lyndon Rive's responsibilities divided among other company leaders. 

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy Corporate News