The boss of Tesla's Chinese operations is now Musk's effective deputy.
Tesla has effectively placed Tom Zhu (Zhu Xiaotong) as its deputy to CEO Elon Musk, according to an internal posting of reporting lines reviewed by Reuters. Zhu remains in charge of Tesla's operations in China and, with his new responsibilities, becomes the automaker's highest-profile executive behind Musk.
This news is not unexpected. In December, the Chinese publication PingWest reported that Musk had chosen to name Zhu as his successor as CEO. While Zhu is not yet CEO of the company, his new position gives him oversight of deliveries in all of Tesla's major markets. He will also be responsible for the operations of Tesla's key production hubs, which include Giga Texas.
It appears that this new arrangement will keep vehicle design and development - areas in which Musk is heavily involved - separate while making Zhu the CEO's effective deputy responsible for managing global sales and output. If all works well, this will give Musk the freedom to focus on the areas that capture his imagination, particularly innovation, which should mean better products to come from Tesla in the future.
At the same time, Zhu's presence and focus should mean that the company as a whole should become more efficient and better managed. In fact, Zhu arrived in America late last year with the goal of streamlining production, and he's got a good track record in this regard, having weathered the storm of the pandemic in a country where severe lockdowns have made efficiency very difficult to achieve.
At this point, it's unclear if Zhu's new responsibilities will ultimately culminate in his appointment as CEO, but the news of his promotion may help to placate anxious investors who have worried that Musk's divided focus is negatively impacting the automaker's ability to remain competitive.
With Zhu helping steer the ship, Tesla should be able to improve on its already remarkable 2022 delivery figures, and with a Tesla Model 3 facelift on the way, not to mention the planned release of the Cybertruck and the ongoing rollout of the Semi, the promotion of this executive could not have come soon enough.