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Tesla Has A New Second-In-Command — What Ought to We Count on?

Tesla has a brand new second-in-command.

Zhu Xiaotong, who known as Tom Zhu, is at the moment Tesla’s vice chairman for Larger China. He’ll assume duty for Tesla’s US meeting vegetation and gross sales operations in North America and Europe. The promotion comes amidst a lot trepidation over CEO Elon Musk’s divided consideration between Tesla and Twitter. (Observe: Bloomberg Hyperdrive notes that Tesla hasn’t made any formal announcement about Zhu’s promotion and has but to formally title him as an govt officer.)

What do we all know at this level about Tom Zhu? What would possibly his affect appear to be for Tesla shifting ahead?

What’s Zhu’s function within the Tesla group? Tom Zhu is now the best profile govt at Tesla after Elon Musk. He might be taking over the extra duties on high of his present function. Zhu was introduced over to Austin late final yr to assist run the corporate’s latest plant.

What does Zhu’s resume appear to be? He holds a 2004 bachelor’s diploma of commerce in data know-how from the Auckland College of Know-how and an MBA from Duke College’s Fuqua Faculty of Enterprise. In an interview with Duke’s Fuqua Faculty, Zhu described himself as “tenacious.” His profession expertise previous to Tesla, in accordance with Forbes, included operating a undertaking administration consulting agency the place he suggested Chinese language contractors seeking to develop abroad. Zhu rose via Tesla’s ranks rapidly, changing into supervisor of China operations by the top of his first yr. Earlier than mass manufacturing started at Tesla Shanghai on the finish of 2019, Zhu had been promoted to international vice chairman and president of Larger China.

Who might be inside Zhu’s chain of command? Tesla’s nation managers in China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand will proceed to report back to Zhu, in addition to some North American ones. Listed here are the large names:

  • Jason Shawhan, director of producing on the Texas Gigafactory;
  • Hrushikesh Sagar, senior director of producing from Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing unit;
  • Joe Ward, vice chairman of Europe, the Center East, and Africa; and,
  • Troy Jones, vice chairman of North America gross sales and repair.

What makes Zhu a superb match for the brand new second-in-command place? Zhu has been credited for a way strongly the Shanghai plant was in a position to rebound after Covid lockdowns in China halted manufacturing for a lot of firms.

What areas of Tesla will come underneath Zhu’s purview? Zhu will supervise Tesla’s manufacturing plans for the Cybertruck launch, an up to date model of the Mannequin Three sedan, and the seemingly emergence of a smaller, cheaper mannequin (we’ll name it the “Mannequin C” for now).

What sort of individual is Zhu? Zhu appears to delight himself on loyalty to firm — he’s often seen wearing a Tesla-branded fleece — and on a minimalist method to manufacturing. “The corporate’s tradition is to not waste assets and time on these fancy and nonsense issues,” Zhu mentioned in a latest and uncommon video interview with PCAuto, an area car-review web site. “Focus your essential power and assets into what actually issues. We don’t have an enormous administrative group right here to service the administration. E-book tickets by your self, seize your meals by your self. Everyone could be very used to it. That is an expression of true equality, proper?” It has been mentioned that through the two-month Covid lockdown in Shanghai, Zhu was one of many first workers to start sleeping within the manufacturing unit so issues might proceed operating easily.

How do Musk and Zhu get alongside? They appear to have an amiable relationship. Throughout an April 2019 earnings name, Musk complimented Zhu, acknowledging that progress on the Shanghai manufacturing unit was “testomony to the excellent execution of our crew on the bottom there. I get each day emails with a dozen photos from at some point to the following from Tom Zhu, who leads the Gigafactory program.” The Shanghai Gigafactory was in-built 10 months. Finally, this grew to become the most important EV manufacturing plant on the planet. For his half, Zhu mentioned in an interview that Musk “is the neatest individual on the planet.”

How do Musk and Zhu method their positions otherwise? The 2 execs have distinct strategies of management. Zhu, who joined Tesla in 2014 to assist construct out the corporate’s Supercharger community, has influenced the all-electric automotive firm primarily from behind the scenes, away from the media glare. Zhu has made only a few public appearances. Musk, however, is a media showman with an uneven report of product reveals — the Mannequin Three reveal was report shattering, and others had been influential milestones as nicely, however some splashy occasions — like the disclosing of solar roofs, Cybertruck glass, and a humanoid robot — had been met with solely partial success.

What further particulars have but to be disclosed about Zhu? Little is understood about Zhu’s household life, his age, or his nation of citizenship. He was born in China, however he does maintain a passport from New Zealand. Most of his household reportedly lives in Beijing, some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) away.

The CleanTechnica Takeaway

The primary response to the information that Musk can be gaining a second-in-command Mini-Me was a collective sigh of reduction across the globe from Tesla followers. Musk has been the target of a whole lot of criticism since his 2022 buy of Twitter, and there have been rising calls to herald a “Tim Cook dinner” or “Gwynne Shotwell” for Tesla. Is the reveal of Tom Zhu’s prolonged umbrella of duties the results of Musk’s mercurial actions elsewhere and their direct correlation to Tesla’s “market craziness?” Has the Tesla Board of Administrators lastly acquiesced to pressures to live up to its fiduciary responsibilities?

Isn’t it time to get a dose of stability and calm for a change at Tesla?

Tom Zhu appears to be a foil to Elon Musk — pragmatic, environment friendly, devoted, targeted on the Tesla product, immune to the attract of media limelight.

Then once more, some management parallels exist. Their educations ready them for numerous and dynamic organizational stewardship. Each execs are famous for sleeping close to the manufacturing line as crunch time for production numbers neared. “Getting your fingers soiled” represents an entrepreneurial spirit and tradition of the corporate, Zhu has mentioned. Musk defined that he felt immersed in “manufacturing hell” as the corporate ramped up manufacturing of the Mannequin 3.

Musk and Zhu praise one another publicly, demonstrating skilled respect and deference the place acceptable. The 2 textual content commonly, discussing points at work or plans for the longer term, which Zhu said made him “really feel extraordinarily excited.”

As the 2 settle into their newly outlined roles, it is going to be attention-grabbing to look at their relationship evolve and to see the results that Zhu has on Tesla.




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