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Originally published Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Tesla Motors hires top Mazda designer

It's been a busy week for Tesla Motors, everyone's favorite upstart-electric-carmaker-slash-green-icon-slash-venture-world heroes. On Monday, Tesla announced...

Los Angeles Times

It's been a busy week for Tesla Motors, everyone's favorite upstart-electric-carmaker-slash-green-icon-slash-venture-world heroes.

On Monday, Tesla announced it had hired a former Ford exec as its new chief financial officer. The new CFO, Deepak Ahuja, comes to the San Carlos, Calif., company via Ford's small-vehicle-development program, and before that Ford Southern Africa.

Now Tesla is confirming that it has hired Mazda's Franz von Holzhausen, widely regarded as one of the most-influential and well-regarded young designers in the industry, to head its design operations.

The electric-car company has yet to officially announce details of the hire, but it is without doubt a coup for the startup, which began taking delivery of its first completed, all-electric, $100,000 Roadsters in April.

Von Holzhausen, Mazda's North American director of design, has been at the Japanese automaker since 2005 and is credited with developing the carmaker's current "design language," which is industry jargon for the collection of styles and physical characteristics associated with a particular brand or series of vehicles.

Now he'll be coming to Tesla, presumably to work on the company's hotly anticipated Model S (formerly known as the WhiteStar) sedan and the even-further-down-the-road compact car known as the BlueStar.

The Dutch designer also worked at Volkswagen and General Motors, where he was involved in the design of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.

Wagging tongues were quick to point out that Von Holzhausen is not Tesla's first A-list designer hire. Until last year, Tesla had contracted former BMW and Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker to help create future models.

That relationship ended poorly, with Tesla suing Fisker for allegedly stealing trade secrets that helped him develop his plug-in hybrid, called the Karma. That case is pending.

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