Tesla loses another top executive ahead of its crucial Model 3 production ramp-up

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Diarmuid O'Connell AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File In this Jan. 14, 2014, photo, Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla Vice President, Business Development speaks during media previews at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Tesla's vice president of business development, Diarmuid O'Connell, is leaving the company after more than 11 years, just before Tesla ramps up production of its first mass-market vehicle, the Model 3.

A Tesla spokesperson confirmed O'Connell's departure to Business Insider in an emailed statement on Wednesday, saying O'Connell "has played an important role in helping Tesla grow from a small startup to a company with a presence around the world."

"He started with Tesla before the rollout of Roadster, and now that we've reached the launch of Model 3, he felt the time was right to move on and spend more time with his family," Tesla's statement read.

The company said Jon McNeill, its president of global sales and service, would take over O'Connell's duties. Tesla declined to say whether it would look for a permanent replacement.

O'Connell was instrumental in defending Tesla's direct-to-consumer sales strategy, which has previously sparked disputes with some dealer groups in the US. To date, Tesla is not allowed to sell its vehicles directly to consumers in several states, including Alabama, Michigan, Texas, and Utah.

It was not immediately clear how those ongoing disputes would be handled ahead of the Model 3 roll-out.

Tesla lost a handful of top talent just this year - including chief financial officer Jason Wheeler who left in April, and battery tech director Kurt Keltner , who left in August. Chris Lattner, the former vice president of Autopilot software, left in June , less than six months after he joined the company.

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