sonnen steals top Tesla executive

There’s no better way to prepare for a head-to-head battle with Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 battery than hire Tesla’s top salesperson.

sonnen, a German-based battery manufacturer with a minimal U.S. presence to date, tapped Blake Richetta, the former North American sales manager for Tesla Energy, to spearhead its U.S. expansion as its vice president of sales.

Richetta is only the latest former Tesla manager to join sonnen. The German battery maker has already raided Tesla’s European operations, hiring six in other former European Tesla managers.

What makes Richetta valuable to sonnen in the United States is his experience with Lutron Electronics, where he built the company’s smart-home lighting and shading business by working with multiple distribution channels. Unlike Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0, which will be sold by Tesla stores directly, sonnen’s U.S. expansion will come through local and regional installation partners.

Recent investments in sonnen’s core global businesses — $85 million minority equity financing by several investors, including Envision Energy, and an searlier investment by GE Ventures — heralded the company’s coming investment in the fast-growing U.S. market.

“We are happy to see top European and U.S. talent join sonnen’s ranks to support our vision of clean and affordable energy for all,” said Philipp Schroeder, managing director and chief sales-and-marketing officer of the company. “We recognize the vital role that regional distribution partners play in the United States, and Blake will help us build those vital relationships.”

Though battery storage has become one of the most-discussed issues in the U.S. solar industry in 2016, the market only supports a limited number of homegrown companies, including Crown Battery, Trojan Battery Co. and Outback Power.

But Tesla is the one company for whom sonnen is gunning, and its recent talent acquisition, including Richetta, is a sign the battle may be just beginning.