Tom Zhu, the CEO of Tesla in China, has been promoted to oversee the company's North American and European sales activities as well as its US manufacturing plants. According to an internal posting of reporting lines, Tom Zhu will oversee deliveries in important regions and the management of key production hubs, making him the second highest-profile executive at Tesla after CEO Elon Musk. Tesla's China CEO Tom Zhu has been promoted to take direct control of the electric vehicle manufacturer's assembly plants in the USA, and sales in Europe and North America. With direct control over operations at all of Tesla's major manufacturing plants and deliveries in all of its key markets, Zhu is now the company's most prominent executive after CEO Elon Musk as a result of the shift.
While providing an apparent deputy to Musk on the more pressing short-term difficulties of managing global sales and output, the reporting lines for Zhu would maintain the separation of Tesla's car design and development, both of which Musk has been intimately involved in. The Tesla posting revealed that as of Tuesday, Zhu still held the position of vice president for China and continued to be the company's top executive responsible for sales in the rest of Asia.
When Zhu and a group of his reports were hired by Tesla late last year to investigate problems with U.S. production, his co-workers assumed he was being prepared for a greater position. Zhu's step up in the Tesla’s ranks comes at a time where many investors and customers feel Musk is side-tracked by his acquisition of Twitter.
Zhu was one of hundreds of employees grinning on the factory floor when Tesla shared a photo on Twitter last month to mark a production milestone for its Model Y at Tesla’s Texas plant.
Tesla's Shanghai facility under Zhu successfully recovered from China's COVID lockdowns. The announcement stated that Zhu remains the primary point of contact for Tesla's country managers in China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Zhu does not report directly to anyone at Tesla's still-growing Berlin facility.
Other news from Tesla is that for the second time in less than three months, the electric vehicle manufacturer again lowered pricing in China at the end of last week, fueling predictions of a wider price war despite declining demand in the largest car market in the world. Despite rising interest rates, inflation, and constrained manufacturing in China, Tesla managed to etch out a record-breaking 405,278 car deliveries globally in the fourth quarter. However, the results fell short of expectations. Tesla offered discounts of $7,500 to American customers who accepted delivery in the final days of December in an effort to clear inventory. Customers who took delivery of a new Tesla by the end of the year were eligible for a Supercharger credit worth 10,000 km of driving in European markets from the company.
Who is Zhu?
Zhu, a New Zealand citizen who was born in China, started working at Tesla in 2014. Before he started his Tesla career Zhu was a project manager for a company founded by one of his university friends. In this role, Zhu provided guidance to Chinese contractors engaged in infrastructure projects in Africa. Zhu was one of the first workers to sleep at the factory during Shanghai's two-month COVID lockdown as they attempted to keep it operational, according to those who work with him.
Zhu is apparently a no-nonsense manager with a cool hair cut who also previously resided in a government-funded condominium that was 10 minutes away from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It was unclear right away if he would relocate after receiving his promotion. He assumes control of Tesla's key production facilities as the company prepares to introduce Cybertruck and a redesigned Model 3 sedan. Tesla has also stated that it is working on a less expensive electric vehicle, but it has not revealed any other information.
In registration paperwork submitted to Chinese regulators by the company this month, Allan Wang, who was elevated to vice president in charge of sales in China in July was identified as the operation's legal representative. James Murdoch, who is a Tesla board member, mentioned in November last year that the EV manufacturer is considering a replacement for Musk. All signs are pointing to Zhu as the possible successor as Tesla CEO.