Tesla sends Shanghai boss and aides to jumpstart U.S. output

SHANGHAI/SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) China chief Tom Zhu and a group of his experiences has been introduced in to troubleshoot manufacturing points in america, fueling discuss amongst colleagues he’s being groomed for a much bigger position at a time when Chief Government Elon Musk has been distracted by Twitter.

Zhu, who heads Tesla’s Asia operations, has been touring with a group together with Shanghai gigafactory supervisor, Track Gang, to Tesla’s crops in California and Texas, and was there as lately as final week, in line with two folks with data of the matter. Each requested to not be named as a result of they weren’t approved to talk to the media.

Tesla didn’t reply to written requests for remark from Reuters despatched to its Shanghai and international media relations accounts. Musk didn’t reply to a Reuters’ e mail in search of feedback for the story. Zhu and Track couldn’t be reached for remark.

Underneath Zhu, Tesla Shanghai rebounded strongly from lockdowns this 12 months to deliver Tesla near its progress goal for 2022 of fifty% manufacturing progress. Analysts anticipate output to fall quick at nearer to 45%, primarily based on forecasts for the just-concluding fourth quarter.

Zhu and others made their first journey to america for Tesla this 12 months in August, one of many folks mentioned, at a time when the corporate has some key administration roles there unfilled.

Among the many initiatives the Shanghai group have labored on is Tesla’s long-delayed Cybertruck, its subsequent new mannequin, a 3rd particular person mentioned.

Tesla’s Austin plant is ramping up manufacturing of the Mannequin Y and readying the Cybertruck. The Fremont plant is getting ready to launch a brand new model of the Mannequin 3, which is able to begin manufacturing in Shanghai subsequent 12 months, Reuters has reported.

Some Tesla buyers and analysts have voiced considerations about Musk’s distraction following his acquisition of Twitter in October and the depth of the manager bench on the electric-car firm.

Bloomberg reported this month that Zhu was serving to to run the Austin plant. Nevertheless, Zhu’s colleagues in Shanghai imagine he’s in line for a extra senior and wider-ranging position at Tesla, the 2 folks mentioned.

A detailed aide to Zhu in Shanghai circulated a farewell poem for the China boss in latest weeks on social media, anticipating his new project, in line with the message reviewed by Reuters.


On the Austin manufacturing unit, Chinese language engineers had been seen by folks on the plant working within the space reserved for improvement of the Cybertruck and batteries, a 3rd particular person with data of operations there mentioned. Tesla has focused manufacturing of the Cybertruck subsequent 12 months.

At Fremont California, Chinese language workers have been engaged on Mannequin Y underbody assemblies, in line with one other particular person with data of their work there.

When Tesla posted a picture on Twitter on Friday to have a good time Austin hitting a brand new manufacturing milestone of three,000 Mannequin Ys in every week — nonetheless lower than a 3rd of the weekly output of Shanghai final quarter — Zhu was proven smiling with lots of of individuals on the manufacturing unit flooring.

Zhu, who was born in China however now holds a New Zealand passport, is a no-fuss supervisor who favors Tesla-branded fleece jackets and lives in a government-subsidized condo a 10-minute drive from the Shanghai Gigafactory, in line with individuals who work with him and his feedback to Chinese language media.

When Musk despatched a memo in early June warning he had a “tremendous dangerous feeling” in regards to the economic system, Shanghai was on monitor to finish the quarter down 36% from the quarter earlier than due to COVID lockdowns, information launched later confirmed.

With assist from Shanghai officers, Zhu restarted operations by asking hundreds of employees and suppliers to remain on the manufacturing unit for greater than six weeks. Zhu himself opted to remain longer, sleeping on the manufacturing unit as Musk had in 2018 when Fremont was struggling to ramp manufacturing, two folks with data of the occasions informed Reuters.

Shanghai, a posh that employs some 20,000 employees, got here roaring again within the third quarter, with output of the Mannequin Y and Mannequin 3 up over 70% on the quarter.

Via September, Shanghai accounted for greater than half of Tesla’s output.

The plant has excelled in making use of cost-saving, factory-floor improvements for Tesla, together with the usage of huge casting machines to simplify manufacturing.

“The manufacturing individuals who led that push are apparent decisions to unfold the manufacturing gospel into the opposite new crops,” mentioned Sam Fiorani, who tracks manufacturing developments Auto Forecast Options.

Tesla board member James Murdoch mentioned final month the corporate had lately recognized a possible successor to Musk with out naming the particular person. Murdoch didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Reuters has no proof that Zhu is the doable candidate.

“With Elon Musk’s consideration at the moment being pulled in quite a lot of instructions, discovering somebody to assist information Tesla is essential, particularly somebody with the manufacturing know-how that Tom Zhu has,” Fiorani mentioned.

Some buyers are skeptical that Zhu alone may flip issues round: “In America, doing enterprise could be very, very completely different than operating a manufacturing unit in China,” Ross Gerber, a Tesla investor and CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Funding Administration mentioned on Twitter Areas on Tuesday. “So I believe Elon must be at Tesla.”

Reporting by Zhang Yan in Shanghai and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; modifying by Kevin Krolicki and Daniel Flynn

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