Tesla’s head of China is reportedly being groomed for bigger role

A new report claims that Tesla’s head of China, Tom Zhu, is in line for a bigger role at the automaker amid previous more sketchy rumors that he was taking over Elon Musk’s role as CEO.

Earlier this month, we reported on a rumor that Zhu, president of Tesla China, would replace Musk as CEO of Tesla.

We were skeptical of the report as it came from a Chinese outlet that was just found guilty of spreading fake news about Tesla in China and asked to compensate the company.

However, other reports are now starting to add validity to Zhu at least having a greater role at Tesla, albeit not necessarily the role of CEO.

We did report earlier this month that Zhu was tapped to go lead Gigafactory Texas – though it’s unclear if the role is permanent.

Now Reuters reports that Zhu is in line for “a more senior and wider-ranging role at Tesla” and that he appears to be leaving his role in China:

However, Zhu’s colleagues in Shanghai believe he is in line for a more senior and wider-ranging role at Tesla, the two people said.

A close aide to Zhu in Shanghai circulated a farewell poem for the China boss in recent weeks on social media, anticipating his new assignment, according to the message reviewed by Reuters.

Zhu has previously received praise and credit from Musk for Tesla’s success in China and especially for the success of Gigafactory Shanghai, which is now Tesla’s most productive factory.

Electrek’s Take

A possibility here is that Zhu would take on a role of either president of Tesla or president of Tesla Automotive.

There’s precedent for those positions.

While no one currently holds those roles at Tesla, the company previously had Jon McNeil as “president of sales and services,” a wide-ranging role within the company’s operations before he left for Lyft in 2018. His responsibilities reportedly went to Musk when he left.

Top comment by Fname Lname

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Even if Zhu is the best for the job, the political winds are changing re: China. Elon already got one party to hate him over Twitter. Naming a Chinese national to this position could get the other side to agree this is a national security concern, lending bipartisan support for a congressional hearing

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Around the same time, Jerome Guillen was made Tesla’s first “president of automotive” in charge of “all automotive operations and program management” and reporting directly to Musk as part of a management reshuffle.

Guillen had been with Tesla for a long time in various critical roles at the company ranging from head of the Model S program to VP of operations.

By early 2021, Tesla transitioned Guillen away from his role as president of automotive, and he went back to just leading the Tesla Semi program. He left Tesla shortly after.

A role similar to this one likely is what the reports are actually talking about for Zhu rather than the role of CEO.

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