Tesla’s China chief Tom Zhu is reportedly the second highest-profile executive of the billion-dollar electric vehicle (EV) company after Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.
His promotion was disclosed by Reuters after the news agency reviewed an internal posting of reporting lines, with two people familiar with the organizational chart confirming the change.
As part of the purported promotion, Zhu, a New Zealand national who was born in China, will directly oversee Tesla’s assembly plants in the United States and its sales operations in North America and Europe.
The uncovered chart allegedly does not state that Zhu will be involved with the EV company’s vehicle design and development, two areas in which Musk is heavily involved.
As of Tuesday, the chart still purportedly lists Zhu as the vice president for Greater China, and his duties as the company’s most senior executive for sales in the rest of Asia have remained the same.
The promotion news comes after Tesla’s market value saw a deep dive by around $700 billion last year due to several contributing factors, including the temporary shutdown of the company’s Shanghai factory due to China’s zero-COVID policy.
Zhu was reportedly among the first batch of employees who slept in the factory when Beijing imposed a two-month lockdown in Shanghai following a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Despite the setback, Tesla’s sole “gigafactory” in China has rebounded under Zhu’s leadership.
A no-frills manager who prefers wearing Tesla-branded fleece jackets over suits and ties, Zhu joined the EV company in 2014.
He was promoted to general manager at the end of the year, when he assumed operational leadership of Tesla in China. He reportedly lives in a government-subsidized apartment that is just a 10-minute drive from his workplace.
Zhu obtained his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and was a member of Fuqua’s East Asia Regional Advisory Board. He also obtained a Bachelor of Commerce in Information Technology from New Zealand’s Auckland University of Technology.
Before becoming a top executive at Tesla, Zhu reportedly worked as a project manager at a company created by his Duke classmates. His work involved consulting Chinese contractors who oversaw infrastructure projects in Africa.
Zhu was notably one of Tesla’s employees who celebrated the company’s production milestone for its midsize SUV Model Y in Austin in early December 2022.