Tesla hopes China boss will bring secret sauce to Gigafactory Texas

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Tom Zhu, Tesla’s China president who oversaw Gigafactory Shanghai’s transformation into the world’s largest EV plant, has been appointed to run the new Gigafactory in Austin, Texas, Bloomberg reported earlier this week. That would make the China chief, who joined Tesla China in April 2014, one of the top executives at the EV giant.

The decision didn’t come as a surprise to industry insiders, given how quickly Gigafactory Shanghai became a cornerstone manufacturing and export hub for Tesla.

It took the plant merely a year — from December 2018 to December 2019 — to go from construction to production. In August, Gigafactory Shanghai made its one-millionth car, accounting for a third of the total Teslas produced up until that point, Elon Musk tweeted. This November was a record month for the facility with 100,291 vehicles delivered.

Such achievements no doubt make Zhu a preferred aide of Musk who promotes a “hardcore” work environment. While Zhu might have a secret recipe for building a well-oiled manufacturing team in a short time, China’s unique conditions aren’t easily replicable in another country.

“Over the past three years, Gigafactory Shanghai has outperformed its counterparts in Fremont, Texas and Berlin, although [not all of the success] is attributable to Tom or the China team,” suggested Chris Zheng, founder of Chinese automotive blog Channel-Q.

“A friendly regulatory environment, a strong supply chain base and an efficient front-line execution team — these are three factors that are currently only available in China, so the key isn’t Shanghai or Texas. Look at BYD. Granted, Tom and his executive team are excellent, but that’s not all,” he added.

Chinese tech news site PingWest reported Wednesday that Musk has anointed Zhu as the CEO of Tesla Global, a new executive role in charge of sales and Gigafactories, while Musk continues to lead “key technical works at the firm.”

Musk tweeted Thursday that he continues to “oversee both Tesla & SpaceX, but the teams there are so good that often little is needed from me.”

This is a developing story . . .

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