By Alexandria Sage
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Tesla Inc is recruiting engineers from Mexico to work on robotics and other automated equipment at its California factory, according to LinkedIn postings viewed by Reuters, part of a hiring push to ready the plant for mass production of the upcoming Model 3.
The electric vehicle maker, which prides itself on its "Made in America" credentials, aims to build 500,000 cars a year by 2018 at its plant in Fremont, California, south of San Francisco. That would be a six-fold increase from 2016.
A recruiting poster published on LinkedIn by Tesla's senior technical recruiter, David Johnson, listed 15 types of engineers the company would be seeking at a May 5-8 recruiting event in Monterrey, Mexico. (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6261290896936042496/)
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its Mexico hiring plans.
The Silicon Valley carmaker is under the gun to accelerate production and save money as it readies for volume production of the Model 3 in September. The company's future profitability hinges on its success, and high hopes for the mass-market vehicle have helped push Tesla shares up 47 percent since January.
Mexico boasts a substantial pool of educated manufacturing engineers, with 19 automotive plants owned by global automakers including General Motors Co , Ford Motor Co , Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Volkswagen .
Tesla's Johnson wrote in a post that he hoped to interview manufacturing and mechanical engineers with experience in "Body in White" (BIW) manufacturing. That is the stage of assembly in which sheet metal components are welded together to make up the outer frame of the car.
"Check this out if you are interested to work with the most complex and automated equipment in our Fremont plant! We are looking for controls, robotic and weld engineers!" posted another Tesla employee, Dominik Knapp, on his LinkedIn page.
Tesla has been actively hiring in the past few months for assembly-line jobs at the Fremont plant. But finding manufacturing engineers, who are in even shorter supply than software engineers in Silicon Valley, is a tougher challenge.
Doug Patton, president of SAE International, a professional association of automotive engineers headquartered in Pennsylvania, said Tesla's search for engineers in Mexico underscored a dearth of talent in the industry.
"There are many more jobs than engineers, this is an engineering problem across the board," he said.
U.S. automakers and suppliers will sometimes bring employees from Mexican plants to the United States for short-term assignments, but Patton said he had not heard of any company recruiting on a "wholesale basis" as Tesla appeared to be doing.
Tesla's vice president of production, Peter Hochholdinger, has experience in Mexico, having been involved in the launch of Audi's high-tech plant in Puebla.
(Editing by Jonathan Weber and Matthew Lewis)