Tesla says top vehicle engineer Doug Field is "taking time off" amid Model 3 production struggles

  • Tesla said its senior vice president of engineering, Doug Field, is "taking time off to recharge."
  • Field was responsible for development of new vehicles at Tesla, including the Model 3.
  • Field's leave of absence follows a string of executive departures from Tesla.
The Tesla Model 3 vehicle is displayed ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Tesla Model 3 vehicle is displayed ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles.

Tesla's senior vice president of engineering, Doug Field, is leaving the company for what the automaker is characterizing as a leave of absence.

Late Friday, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported that Field was stepping back from his duties at Tesla, amid ongoing production problems with its Model 3 sedan. A Tesla spokesperson told CNBC that "Doug is just taking some time off to recharge and spend time with his family. He has not left Tesla."

The Journal reported that Field's absence would be temporary. Tesla, however, declined to answer CNBC's questions about when he was expected to return.

Field, who was formerly a VP of hardware engineering at Apple, joined Tesla in 2013. He was responsible for development of new vehicles there, including the Model 3 electric sedan, which is the company's first EV designed for the mass market.

Tesla's future hinges on efficient, high-volume production of the Model 3. But the company has so far failed to hit its production goals for the vehicle and has yet to release the $35,000 base model of the car to eager drivers.

In the first quarter of 2018, Tesla produced 9,766 of its higher-priced Model 3 vehicles, up from 2,425 in the prior quarter. When it first unveiled the Model 3, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it could manufacture 20,000 of them monthly by the end of 2017.

In the first quarter of 2018, the Model 3 became the best-selling electric vehicle in the U.S. More than 450,000 people have signed up to purchase the car, putting down a $1,000 refundable deposit to do so. Tesla doesn't report how many people have requested refunds for vehicles they have paid to reserve.

In early April, Musk announced that he would personally take over responsibilities for Model 3 production at Tesla from Doug Field. At the same time, Musk

: "I regard [Doug Field] as one of the world's most talented engineering execs."

Field could not be reached immediately for comment. His leave of absence follows a string of executive departures at Tesla. In April, Intel poached Tesla Autopilot executive Jim Keller.