Tom Zhu: Elon Musk’s right-hand man at Tesla | CNN Business
The head of Tesla in China has reportedly received a big promotion.
Tom Zhu has been given Tesla’s US assembly plants and sales operations in North America and Europe as additional responsibilities, leaving only the Berlin Gigafactory outside his purview, according to media reports on Tuesday.
The reports have intensified speculation that the Chinese-born Zhu is being groomed to succeed Elon Musk as CEO of the world’s largest electric car maker. So what do we know about him?
Zhu, who is now the highest-profile Tesla executive after Musk, has played an important role in helping the company bounce back strongly from Covid-19 lockdowns in China, its biggest international market. large of the car manufacturer.
His reported appointment comes at a time when Musk has been distracted by his acquisition of Twitter and Tesla shares have fallen 65% in 2022.
While Tesla did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment, Chinese media have speculated since December that Zhu was being groomed for a bigger global role at the electric carmaker.
“Zhu is a core leader at Tesla and a linchpin of its success, particularly in China,” said Daniel Ives, managing director and senior equity research analyst covering the technology industry at Wedbush Securities.
Zhu joined Tesla in 2014 and has been described by Chinese media as “pragmatic”, “entrepreneurial” and “a workaholic”.
“I want to sleep a lot, but the work is very interesting,” he said in a 2019 post on his Weibo account.
Zhu has made few public appearances since joining Tesla, and there is little public information about his age or personal life. He was born in China, and CNN could not confirm whether he still has Chinese citizenship.
According to his social media profile, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Auckland University of Technology in 2004 and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Before joining Tesla, he founded a project management consulting firm, providing advice to Chinese contractors looking to expand overseas.
A 2021 interview by the Jiefang Daily in Shanghai, the official Communist Party newspaper in the financial center, showed Zhu working from an open office, with almost no time for breakfast.
“Efficiency and pragmatism are a style of our company,” he said in the interview, which is one of the few in which Zhu has appeared since joining Tesla.
In a separate video interview last year by privately owned PCauto Chinese news portal, Zhu revealed more about his personal life and work style.
Tesla’s China boss doesn’t embody a flashy lifestyle. He lives in a low-cost public rental house, paying a monthly rent of less than 2,000 yuan ($290), as it is close to Shanghai’s sprawling factory.
Living close to work is “quite convenient,” Zhu said in the interview. He also carpools with colleagues and starts work at 6 or 7 in the morning, often staying past midnight.
He also revealed that he texted Musk regularly, discussing issues at work or plans for the future, which Zhu said made him “feel very excited.”
In 2019, after several typhoons affected the Shanghai plant’s drainage system, Zhu and other Tesla employees manually drained water with plastic buckets in the rain.
“Getting our hands dirty” represents the company’s entrepreneurial spirit and culture, he said.
Zhu’s promotion came after an impressive performance by Tesla’s China operations.
Since 2014, Tesla has rapidly expanded into the world’s largest auto market. In 2019, it built the Shanghai Gigafactory within 10 months, at a cost that was 65% cheaper than the Model 3 production plant in the United States.
Within a few years, it became the largest electric vehicle production plant on the planet.
In 2021, Tesla delivered 936,000 vehicles worldwide, more than half came from the Shanghai factory.
By August 2022, Musk said the company had manufactured more than three million cars, one million of which came from Shanghai. In November, the Shanghai factory set a new monthly delivery record of more than 100,000 vehicles. All this was achieved after Covid restrictions caused the plant to temporarily suspend production last year.
Tesla’s sales in China also beat expectations. In the first three quarters of 2022, Tesla generated $13.6 billion in revenue from China, up 51% from the same period a year ago.