Tom Zhu China boss is now the highest profile Tesla

Tom Zhu: China boss is now the highest-profile Tesla executive after Elon Musk

Hong Kong Portal —

Tesla Inc. China chief Tom Zhu has been promoted to oversee the electric carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants and sales operations in North America and Europe, according to an internal release of reporting lines verified by Portal.

Tesla’s (TSLA) post showed that Zhu’s title of vice president for Greater China had not changed and that he also retained his responsibility as Tesla’s (TSLA) chief executive officer for sales in the rest of Asia as of Tuesday.

The move makes Zhu the highest-profile executive at Tesla after Elon Musk, with oversight of deliveries in all major markets and all production outside of Tesla’s still ramping-up plant in Germany.

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

Portal reviewed Tesla’s internally released organizational chart and confirmed the change with two people who saw it. They asked not to be named as they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Zhu and a team of his reports were brought in by Tesla late last year to troubleshoot production issues in the United States, sparking expectations among his then-colleagues that he was being groomed for a larger role.

Zhu’s appointment to a global role comes at a time when Musk was distracted by his takeover of Twitter (TWTR) and Tesla analysts and investors were calling for action that would deepen the board and allow him to focus on Tesla.

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

Tesla said Monday it delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, which falls short of Wall Street estimates, according to data compiled by Refinitiv. In the same period last year, the company delivered 308,600 vehicles.

Tesla executives reporting to Zhu include: Jason Shawhan, production manager at the Gigafactory in Texas; Hrushikesh Sagar, senior director of manufacturing at Tesla’s Fremont facility; Joe Ward, vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Troy Jones, vice president of North America Sales and Service, according to Tesla’s Portal-verified reporting lines statement.

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

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 started 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 employees to sleep at the factory as they tried to keep it running, people who work with him said.

Zhu, a no-frills, cropped manager who prefers Tesla-branded fleece jackets, lives in a government-subsidized apartment a 10-minute drive from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It was initially not clear whether he would change after his promotion.

He assumes responsibility for Tesla’s key manufacturing centers as the company prepares to launch Cybertruck and a redesigned version of its Model 3 sedan.

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

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

Tesla board member James Murdoch said in November the company had recently identified a potential successor to Musk, without naming the person. Murdoch did not respond to a request for comment.

Elecktrek previously reported that Zhu would be responsible for sales, delivery and service in the US.