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Who is Tom Zhu, Elon Musk's 'Tim Cook' at Tesla?

Who is Tom Zhu, Elon Musk’s ‘Tim Cook’ at Tesla?

My identify is Tom ZhuI’m now liable for international manufacturing and gross sales and supply providers. I joined the corporate in 2014 and was accountable for the enterprise within the Better China and Asia Pacific area. Immediately I’m representing all of the Gigafactories to speak about how we will make extra automobiles, quicker.. that’s the way it was introduced Zhu Xiaotong yesterday, when occurring stage through the Buyers Day 2023 of Tesla.

There, amongst different bulletins, it was made official that the following Gigafactory of the corporate led by Elon Musk will probably be within the state of Nuevo León, Mexico.

However Tom Zhu not simply any govt inside that massive machine that has revolutionized electrical mobility worldwide known as Tesla. In his nearly 9 years within the firm, he has managed to place himself as a elementary piece of the growth plans led by Elon Musk. To the purpose of changing into the primary facet of the tycoon —his proper hand, we may additionally say—, however with out throwing away his low profile inside the firm, nor his unknown standing outdoors of it.

If we draw a parallel, Tom Zhu is to Elon Musk what, on the time, Tim Prepare dinner was to Steve Jobs at Apple. It’s the best technique to spotlight the significance of this Chinese language govt, liable for Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory immediately being a monster able to producing round 20,000 electrical automobiles per week.

“Constructing extra factories is the place to begin for making extra automobiles, and we’re actually specialists in it,” Zhu boasted throughout Investor Day 2023. His phrases have been accompanied by a greater than eloquent picture: earlier than and after development from the Gigafactory Shanghai. How a lot time elapsed between the 2 pictures? Simply 9 and a half months.

Tom Zhu defined that to construct factories so rapidly it’s essential to wager on a technique that’s as linear as doable. This requires problem the concepts of the traditional automotive business and to wager that each one —or nearly all— the work is carried out with their very own gear. He additionally referred to the opportunity of growing automobile manufacturing inside present infrastructure, whereas new factories are constructed world wide.

It turns into clear that Xiaotong’s technique is working completely. The chief introduced that Tesla reached the milestone of 4 million electrical automobiles produced, with a powerful evolution in manufacturing instances. “It took us 12 years to construct our first million autos and one other 18 months to achieve our second million. We bought the third million eleven months later, and in lower than 7 months we have now reached the fourth million. So we’re getting higher and quicker,” he highlighted.

Tom Zhu, a key piece for Tesla’s success

However Tom Zhu’s beginnings at Tesla have been removed from the electrical automotive manufacturing line. When the manager joined the corporate, his first project was to assist develop and develop the fledgling community of Superchargers. Nevertheless, his rise to extra related positions inside the firm occurred in a meteoric method. By the tip of his first yr of labor, he was already the director of operations in China.

It’s evident that Elon Musk acknowledged in Zhu Xiaotong an ally in whom he may belief the primary duties of his growth within the Asian big. In January 2019, in actual fact, he was a type of who accompanied the tycoon through the start-up ceremony on the Gigafactory Shanghai. By the tip of the yr, the supervisor had been promoted to the roles of Tesla China President and International Vice President.

Tom Zhu |  elon musk |  Tesla

The duties of Tom Zhu inside Tesla elevated once more in July 2022. At the moment, the corporate restructured his govt roles and appointed him as head of the Asia Pacific area. Till then, the supervision of gross sales in territories similar to Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong was the duty of an govt situated in the USA.

Regardless of his rising prominence on the electrical carmaker, Tom Zhu continued to be nearly unknown outdoors the corporate. His public appearances have been uncommon in recent times, and the few interviews she has given have been to Chinese language media. It’s not illogical, then, the shortage of publicity of him within the West.

It was solely initially of this yr that his identify started to generate extra noise on this facet of the world. Within the first days of January, it was introduced that Tom Zhu would take over the supervision of Tesla’s meeting vegetation in the USA and that he would additionally take up the problem as Gross sales Supervisor for North America and Europe. All this, whereas he maintained his duties with the model in the primary Asian markets.

Actually, the uproar over his new promotion fueled rumors that may develop into Elon Musk’s successor as Tesla CEO. A chance that on the time didn’t appear unreasonable, contemplating the “distractions” of the present CEO with Twitter.

His meteoric rise

Tom Zhu |  elon musk |  Tesla

Tom Zhu’s low profile makes it troublesome to pinpoint an correct rundown of his pre-Tesla profession. Bloomberg states that, though he was born in China, He additionally holds a New Zealand passport.. This is because of his journey as a scholar, as he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Data Know-how from Auckland College of Know-how. Though a part of his college life was additionally spent in the USA, the place he obtained an MBA from the Fuqua Faculty of Enterprise, belonging to Duke College.

Earlier than coming to Tesla, Tom Zhu served in Kaibo Worldwide, a agency devoted to managing development initiatives. In that firm he held numerous roles —nearly a premonition of his future at Tesla— and served as a guide for initiatives in Asia, Africa and Oceania.

“Personally, I really feel that I’m a tenacious particular person. Irrespective of how troublesome the venture is, I’m decided to complete it. […] Along with main a crew, it’s additionally necessary to supply sufficient area for that crew to develop. The area for growth and the area for promotion are completely different. Each my earlier and present Tesla groups agree that we don’t care a lot about place titles, however we worth whether or not every particular person could make an affect or not,” he mentioned in an interview with the Fuqua Faculty of Enterprise.

That tenacity led him to take a pivotal position for Tesla in China in 2014, when the corporate was making headlines for unintended causes. By then, the output of Veronica Wu as chief of operations she brought about fairly a stir. the manager had come from Apple with a lot fanfare and resigned simply 9 months after taking workplace.

At the moment, Tesla was removed from what it’s immediately, and it was going through complicated moments. On the one hand, it had issues with the importation of the Mannequin S, which brought about delays in deliveries. As well as, customs duties made its autos considerably costlier in China than in the USA, and there have been massive disputes over the provision of charging factors outdoors main cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

However not solely that: at the moment, customers have been prohibited from driving their electrical automobiles in Beijing throughout rush hours. Tom Zhu is taken into account one of many major liable for the restriction being lifted in 2015., additionally making Tesla’s charger community develop exponentially in a short while. By 2016, Elon Musk’s firm had delivered greater than 11,000 autos within the Asian big, producing revenues of greater than 1 billion {dollars}.

A relentless work ethic, simply the way in which Elon Musk likes it

Tesla factory

Throughout his time as Tesla’s high seen face in China, Tom Zhu earned a fame as a “workaholic” and stood out for his everlasting presence on the manufacturing line on the Gigafactory Shanghai. Of an accessible and expeditious nature, his attitudes have set the instance on multiple event. Firm staff informed that, in 2019, with the manufacturing facility simply completed, a robust storm with rain brought about the roof to flood attributable to failures within the drainage system. To stop the construction from collapsing, Zhu and about thirty different staff went up with plastic buckets to attempt to drain the water below the deluge.

In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tesla was one of many many firms that suffered from the sanitary blockade imposed by the Xi Jinping authorities. Regardless of a number of setbacks, the Gigafactory Shanghai managed to reactivate its manufacturing with the implementation of a bubble system that pressured staff to sleep contained in the manufacturing facility. Tom Zhu was no exception and in addition stayed to reside inside the Tesla services to carefully comply with the work geared toward recovering the manufacturing misplaced because of the stoppages.

In an interview with the Chinese language media PC Auto in 2021, Tom Zhu commented that his work day often began at 6am, to communicate with the groups within the US regardless of the time distinction. At the moment, the manager indicated that he lived in a two-bedroom residence situated simply 10 minutes from the manufacturing facility, and that used to share the automotive experience to the ability with different employees who lived in the identical place.

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“At our firm, most issues are hands-on. It’s essential to get your palms soiled. In regards to the issues we have now within the markets all through the nation, I attempt to discover out as quickly as doable, ”he mentioned on the time. As well as, he threw a moderately peculiar idea about his contact with Elon Musk:

“I believe he doesn’t need me to inform him about my work. Really, he expects us to be a communication channel and bridge in order that he can perceive our progress as a enterprise in China. So we communicate very incessantly; though not solely I can talk with Elon. Really, all of our staff can do it. If you happen to randomly stroll as much as any employee on this manufacturing facility and ask him the way to contact Elon Musk, he’ll inform you.”

Will Tom Zhu be the following Tesla CEO?

Immediately, Tom Zhu seems to be a number of lengths forward of different Tesla executives to develop into Elon Musk’s hypothetical successor. Though nobody dares to foretell when such a change of conduct could happen, if it ever occursclear.

However together with his duties as international manufacturing chief and gross sales chief throughout Europe and North America, it’s not unreasonable to assume he’s nearer to the CEO chair than ever. Hypothesis apart, what is evident is that Elon Musk has discovered his personal Tim Prepare dinner in Tom Zhu.

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