George Blankenship, the Tesla executive and marketing maven who led the company’s retail operations and showroom expansions, is no longer with the Palo Alto-based company, according to a source with first-hand knowledge of his departure. When reached for comment, Blankenship, 60, said by e-mail that he was retiring to spend more time with his family, including four grandchildren.
Blankenship is still listed as Vice President, Sales & Ownership Experience on Tesla’s website. But his LinkedIn profile now says he is “Director of Smiles for the Blankenship Family” and he apparently left Tesla a few weeks ago.
His departure, which has not officially been announced, comes as Tesla weathers one of the hardest couple of months in the young company’s history. The NHTSA has opened an investigation into two Model S fires, but widespread media coverage of the incidents, in which the drivers were not injured, has outraged CEO Elon Musk. Meanwhile, Cal-OSHA is investigating a workplace accident at the Fremont factory that injured three workers.
The car continues to get rave reviews from consumers. On Thursday, Consumer Reports announced that the Model S was the top-rated model for owner satisfaction in a survey of the magazine’s subscribers.
Musk lured Blankenship, who previously worked at Apple and The Gap, to Tesla in July 2010. Blankenship was the chief strategist behind Apple’s retail stores, and at Tesla he oversaw expansions of showrooms across the United States, Europe and Asia.
We have reached out to Tesla for comment about Blankenship’s departure; check back for updates. And if you know the back story – we’re sure there’s a great one! – contact Dana Hull at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile 510-449-6359.
Photo of George Blankenship by Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News