Tesla rose to second place after the Chinese leader Musk

(Reuters) – Tesla China chief Tom Zhu has been promoted to direct oversight of the electric carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants, as well as business operations in North America and Europe, an internal message showed in a group organizational chart seen by Reuters.

The message also shows that Tom Zhu retained his title as group vice president for China and his responsibilities as head of commercial activities in the rest of Asia as of Tuesday.

The changes make him de facto Tesla’s number two after CEO and co-founder Elon Musk, overseeing both sales in all of the automaker’s major markets and operations at key manufacturing sites.

The new organization chart also shows that vehicle design and development, two areas in which Elon Musk is heavily involved, remain completely separate activities from the rest of the operations, while making Tom Zhu his right-hand man. -term issues related to production and sales.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reuters was able to see an organizational chart distributed internally by Tesla and obtained confirmation of these developments through two people who requested anonymity.

Tom Zhu was asked by Tesla last year to come with a team of employees to deal with production problems in the US, which was interpreted by some colleagues as a sign that he was ready for more important functions.

ELON MUSK is busy on Twitter

Tom Zhu’s expansion comes at a time when Elon Musk’s recent acquisition of Twitter and his desire to reshape the social network have seen him monopolize, prompting some analysts or Tesla shareholders to call for the automaker’s leadership to be strengthened.

Tom Zhu was recently able to actively resume operations at Tesla’s Shanghai factory following the COVID-19-related lockdowns in China.

On Monday, the American automaker said it delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, a result below Wall Street expectations, according to Refinitiv data, but significantly higher than 308,600 deliveries in the same period a year ago.

Tesla executives reporting directly to Tom Zhu now include, according to an organization chart seen by Reuters: Jason Shawhan, director of manufacturing for the Gigafactory in Texas; Hrushikesh Sagar, production manager, Fremont, Calif. plant; Joe Ward, Vice President in charge of Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Troy Jones, vice president of North American sales and service.

Tesla executives in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand remain committed to it.

Tom Zhu does not have direct responsibility for Tesla’s Berlin factory, which is still under development, but that responsibility will be handled through Amsterdam-based Joe Ward, according to a person familiar with the matter. He could not immediately be reached.

Tom Zhu was born in China but has a New Zealand passport. He joined Tesla in 2014. Previously, he was a project manager at a company founded by MBA students at Duke University, advising Chinese contractors working on infrastructure projects in Africa.

During his two-month detention in Shanghai last spring, he was one of the first group of workers to sleep at the Tesla factory to keep the site running.

NEW MODELS

Tom Zhu, a reserved personality with short hair, likes to introduce himself wearing Tesla T-shirts. He lives in a modest apartment a 10-minute drive from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It is not known if his new duties will cause him to move.

He is responsible for Tesla’s key production areas as the automaker prepares to launch the Cybertruck pickup truck and a new version of the Model 3 sedan. project.

Allan Wang, who was promoted to vice president of sales in China in July, was registered as the legal representative for operations in the country as part of a change registered with Chinese authorities last month.

Tesla CEO James Murdoch said in November that the automaker had recently identified a potential successor to Elon Musk, but did not name the person. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Specialized site Electrek previously reported that Tom Zhu will be responsible for Tesla’s commercial and service activities in the United States.

(Reporting by Zhang Yan in Shanghai and Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul, writing by Kevin Krolicki, French version by Bertrand Boucey, editing)

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