Li_DanLi_Dan ・ May. 9, 2024
Tesla SVP Tom Zhu Said to Return to China after Musk's Surprising Visit in Bid to Boost Sales
Some Tesla employees refer to Zhu internally as the fireman for his ability to trouble shoot issues and meet high targets.

TMTPost -- Tom Zhu, one of the three senior executives of Tesla Inc.including CEO Elon Musk, may return to China as head of its biggest overseas market.

Credit:Tesla

Credit:Tesla

Zhu, Tesla’s Senior Vice President (SVP), Automotive, will go back to his responsibilities as Vice President (VP) of Tesla China, Electrek reported. The Wall Street Journal reported similar deployment of Zhu, citing people familiar with the matter. The report noted some Tesla employees refer to Zhu internally as the fireman for his ability to trouble shoot issues and meet high targets.

Zhu, joined Tesla in April 2014, has served as Tesla’s SVP overseeing global manufacturing, sales, delivery and service operations  since April, 2023. Prior to his promotion, Zhu has long been head of Tesla’s operations in China. Under his leadership, Gigafactory Shanghai has developed into Tesla’s most efficient facility. The factory completed production of 2 million vehicles in just four years after the first batch of Model 3 deliveries completed by the end of 2019. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made Zhu in charge of all Gigafactories back in late 2022.

Zhu’s move came as Musk surprisingly visited China last month, highlighting Tesla is striving to boost sales after the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) behemoth  posted first year-over-year (YoY) quarterly decline in revenue since 2022. Its revenue in the quarter ended March 2024 fell 9% YoY, the steepest YoY drop since 2012. Net income that quarter sank 55% YoY, and operating margins shed to the six-year lowest 5.5%, down from 11.4% in the first quarter of 2023.

Musk travelled to China on April 28 without public flagging earlier. Musk was reported to meet officials in China about rollout of Tesla’s Full Self-driving (FSD) system in the country and permission to transfer data overseas, though China’s state media didn’t confirm Musck has talked about FSD or anything related to  the driver-assistance software.China Central Television (CCTV) reported Musk was invited by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the billionaire met with Ren Hongbin, head of the trade association, "to discuss next steps in cooperation and other topics".

In his in-person meeting with Musk, Chinese Premier Li Qiang hailed Tesla's development in China as a successful example of China-U.S. economic and trade cooperation, according to Xinhua News Agency. Li said that China's vast market will always be open to foreign-funded enterprises, which he called indispensible participants in and contributors to China's development. China will act on its words and intensify its efforts in expanding market access and enhancing services, among other areas, to offer a more favorable business environment and stronger support for foreign enterprises, the premier said.

Following Musk’s meet with Li, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) unveiled Tesla became one of the first automakers whose vehicle models are compliant with all of four China’s data security requirements. Tesla then said various local authorities in China have gradually lifted restrictions on the movement and parking of intelligent connected connected vehicles made by the company and other automakers

A day after CAAM’s annoucement, Reuters cited sources that Baidu, China's major Internet search company, reached an agreement with Tesla to grant the car company access to its mapping license for data collection on China's public roads. As part of the deal, Baidu would also provide its lane-level navigation system to Tesla, according to the sources.The deal was reported to clear a final regulatory hurdle for Tesla's driver assistance system.

Musk’s visit to China sent a signal that he is fully committed to the EV maker, according to the longtime Tesla bull Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s head of U.S. auto research. “Elon Musk’s visit to China means far more than seeking approval for self driving tech on Chinese roads. Whether Tesla’s CEO is sleeping on a floor or on a plane... the message is clear: he’s back,” Jonas wrote in a note late April.

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