Tom Zhu, the Company’s China-Based CEO, Replaces Elon Musk as the Most Prominent Executive

Tom Zhu, the Company’s China-Based CEO, Replaces Elon Musk as the Most Prominent Executive

According to an internal posting of reporting lines examined by Reuters, Tesla’s China CEO Tom Zhu has been promoted to take direct control of the electric carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants as well as its sales activities in North America and Europe.

The Tesla posting revealed that as of Tuesday (January 3, 2023), Zhu still held the position of vice president for Greater China and continued to be the company’s top executive responsible for sales in the rest of Asia.

The move makes Zhu the highest-profile executive at Tesla after Chief Executive Elon Musk, with direct oversight for deliveries in all of its major markets and operations of its key production hubs.

The reporting structure for Zhu would provide an apparent deputy to Musk on the more immediate issues of managing global sales and output while keeping apart Tesla’s car design and development, both of which Musk has been heavily involved in.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reuters reviewed the organizational chart that had been posted internally by Tesla and confirmed the change with two people who had seen it. They asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

When Zhu and a group of his subordinates were hired by Tesla late last year to investigate problems with American production, his coworkers assumed he was being prepared for a greater position.

Zhu’s elevation to a worldwide position comes at a time when Tesla analysts and investors have sought action that would strengthen the senior management bench and allow Musk to focus on Tesla. Musk has been sidetracked by his acquisition of Twitter.

Under Zhu, Tesla’s Shanghai plant rebounded strongly from Covid lockdowns in China.

Tesla said on Monday that it had delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, short of Wall Street estimates, according to data compiled by Refinitiv.

The company had delivered 308,600 vehicles in the same period a year earlier.

The Tesla managers reporting to Zhu include: Jason Shawhan, director of manufacturing at the Gigafactory in Texas; Hrushikesh Sagar, senior director of manufacturing at Tesla’s Fremont factory; Joe Ward, vice president in charge of Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Troy Jones, vice president of North America sales and service, according to the Tesla notice on reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

Tesla country managers in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand continued to report to Zhu, the notice showed.

Zhu does not have a direct report at Tesla’s still-ramping Berlin plant, but a person with knowledge of the matter said responsibility for that operation would come with the reporting line for Amsterdam-based Ward. Ward could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zhu, who was born in China but now holds a New Zealand passport, joined Tesla in 2014. Before that he was a project manager at a company established by his MBA classmates at Duke University, advising Chinese contractors working on infrastructure projects in Africa.

During Shanghai’s two-month Covid lockdown, Zhu was among the first batch of employees sleeping in the factory as they sought to keep it running, people who work with him have said.

Zhu, a no-nonsense manager with a buzz cut, like fleece jackets with the Tesla logo and previously resided in a government-funded condominium that was 10 minutes away from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It was not immediately clear whether he would move after his promotion.

He takes charge of Tesla’s main production hubs at a time when the company is readying the launch of Cybertruck and a revamped version of its Model 3 sedan. Tesla has also said it is developing a cheaper electric vehicle but has not provided details on that plan.

When Tesla posted a picture on Twitter last month to celebrate its Austin, Texas, plant hitting a production milestone for its Model Y, Zhu was among hundreds of workers smiling on the factory floor.

The company listed Allan Wang, who was promoted to vice president in charge of sales in China in July, as the legal representative for the operation in registration papers filed with Chinese regulators in a change last month.

James Murdoch, a member of the Tesla board, stated in November that the business has recently identified a potential Musk replacement without naming the individual. A comment from Murdoch was not forthcoming.

Electrek previously reported that Zhu would take responsibility for U.S. sales, delivery and service.