An internal posting of reporting lines reviewed by Reuters indicates that Tesla Inc.’s China chief Tom Zhu has been promoted to take charge of the electric carmaker’s US assembly plants and sales operations in North America and Europe.
According to the Tesla (TSLA) posting, Zhu continued to hold the position of vice president for Greater China and the title of most senior executive for sales in the rest of Asia as of Tuesday.
After Elon Musk, the move makes Zhu the most well-known Tesla executive. He is in charge of deliveries to all of the company’s major markets and all of the company’s production outside of the still-busting Tesla plant in Germany.
Reuters examined Tesla’s internal organizational chart and verified the change with two individuals who had seen it. They were not permitted to discuss the matter, so they requested anonymity.
At the end of last year, Tesla brought Zhu and a team of his reports in to troubleshoot production issues in the United States. This led his coworkers to believe that he was being prepared for a bigger role.
Zhu’s appointment to a global position comes at a time when Tesla analysts and investors have urged Musk to take action that would deepen the senior executive bench and allow him to focus on Tesla. Musk has been distracted by his acquisition of Twitter (TWTR).
Under Zhu’s leadership, the Covid lockdowns in China had little effect on Tesla’s Shanghai plant.
According to data compiled by Refinitiv, Tesla announced on Monday that it had delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, falling short of Wall Street estimates. During the same time last year, the company had delivered 308,600 vehicles.
The managers at Tesla who report to Zhu include: The Gigafactory’s director of manufacturing, Jason Shawhan; Hrushikesh Sagar, Tesla’s Fremont factory’s senior director of manufacturing; Vice President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Joe Ward; Reuters reviewed the Tesla notice on reporting lines, and Troy Jones, vice president of North American sales and service.
Zhu, who was born in China but now has a passport from New Zealand, joined Tesla in 2014. Before that, he worked as a project manager for a Duke MBA classmate’s company that provided guidance to Chinese contractors working on infrastructure projects in Africa.
People who work with Zhu have said that during Shanghai’s two-month Covid lockdown, Zhu was among the first group of workers who tried to keep the factory running by sleeping there.
Zhu is a straightforward manager who prefers Tesla-branded fleece jackets, has a buzz cut, and has lived in a government-subsidized apartment 10 minutes from the Shanghai Gigafactory. After receiving a promotion, it was not immediately clear whether he would relocate.
He assumes responsibility for Tesla’s primary creation center points when the organization is preparing the send off of Cybertruck and a redid variant of its Model 3 car.
Zhu was one of hundreds of happy workers on the factory floor when Tesla posted a picture to celebrate its Austin, Texas plant’s Model Y production milestone on Twitter last month.
In a change made by the company last month, Allan Wang, who was promoted to vice president in charge of sales in China in July, was listed as the legal representative for the operation in registration papers that were submitted to Chinese regulators.
James Murdoch, a member of Tesla’s board, stated in November that the company had recently identified a potential Musk replacement without naming the individual. A request for information from Murdoch was not met.
Elecktrek had previously stated that Zhu would be in charge of US sales, delivery, and customer service.
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