Musk may give up the Tesla CEO seat to the Chinese

Frankly, I don't want to be the CEO of any company.

Last month, when Musk testified in court on the "sky-high salary", he not only made it clear that he did not want to be the CEO of Tesla, but also said that the current CEO of Twitter is only a stopgap measure. "I want to spend less time on Twitter and find someone else to run Twitter long-term."

Antonio Gracias, a former Tesla board member, also testified that he had discussed with Musk about finding a CEO in charge of sales, finance, and human resources so that Musk could focus on products, but they never found the right one. candidates.

But now, Musk seems to have found his "that ta."

Zhu Xiaotong's, Tesla China

On December 7, Pinwan announced that Musk had decided to appoint Tom Zhu as Tesla’s global CEO.

Perhaps many of my friends have never heard of this name. Zhu Xiaotong is a low-key person who has only a handful of public appearances in the media, and has hardly ever accepted interviews with overseas media.

Currently, he serves as Tesla 's global vice president and president of Greater China , responsible for Tesla's business in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other Asia-Pacific regions.

▲Zhu Xiaotong, picture from: Xinhua News Agency

Zhu Xiaotong graduated from Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and received a bachelor's degree in information technology in 2004. Four years later, he entered the Duke University Business School in the United States to study for an MBA.

Before joining Tesla, Zhu Xiaotong participated in the founding of Kaibo International, responsible for daily operations, market development and project management. In 2013, he founded an engineering management consulting company, engaged in international engineering project management consulting work, helping Chinese enterprises to explore foreign markets.

It can be seen that Zhu Xiaotong has no working experience in the fields of automobiles, computers or artificial intelligence.

In April 2014, Zhu Xiaotong joined Tesla China as the director of the super charging station project, responsible for the construction of the super charging station. That month, Tesla's first super charging station in mainland China was completed in Shanghai.

What is even more surprising is that after only 7 months, Tesla has deployed 25 super charging stations in China, becoming the country with the largest number of super charging stations outside the United States.

In December of the same year, Veronica Wu, Tesla’s former global vice president and president of Greater China, resigned because sales were far below expectations. Baton, responsible for Tesla's sales in China. However, at that time, his position was still "General Manager of Tesla China".

▲The first domestic Model 3 rolls off the production line, picture from: Bloomberg

In October 2019, Tesla's Shanghai Gigafactory officially went into production, and the first domestic Model 3 was officially delivered on December 30, 2019.

From breaking ground to successful delivery, the Shanghai factory took less than a year, to be more specific, 357 days. In contrast to the Berlin factory, it took them two and a half years.

At the first delivery ceremony of the domestic Tesla Model 3, Musk was so excited that he stripped and danced, expressing his gratitude to the Chinese government on stage.

Without the support of China (government), Tesla would not be where it is today.

In addition to the Chinese government, Musk should also thank one person, that is, Zhu Xiaotong, who was already Tesla's global vice president and president of Greater China at that time.

▲The delivery ceremony of the first batch of 15 domestic Model 3s, with Zhu Xiaotong on the left

During his tenure as the president of China, Zhu Xiaotong also led a series of localization matters of Tesla products, including experiencing China's opening, new car dissemination, and also achieved fruitful results in terms of sales performance.

On August 15 this year, Musk revealed on Twitter that Tesla has produced more than 3 million cars, of which 1/3 came from the Shanghai Gigafactory .

On the other hand, Tesla's financial report for the third quarter of 2022 shows that Tesla's quarterly revenue in the Chinese market reached 5.131 billion US dollars (approximately 37.492 billion yuan); the total revenue of the first three quarters came to 13.568 billion US dollars. billion (about 99.141 billion yuan), a year-on-year increase of 50.5%.

Under Zhu Xiaotong's leadership, China has now become Tesla's second-largest market in the world , accounting for 23.9% of the company's total revenue, second only to the United States.

From comprehensive management of the Greater China region to in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, it seems that if Zhu Xiaotong can take over Tesla's global production, delivery and sales business, it seems to be going smoothly.

A CEO who is not a CEO

Musk also said this in court last month:

My role is more of an engineer developing technology, my goal is to develop breakthrough technology and make sure we have an incredible team of engineers that can make it happen.

He believes that from the work he has done in the company, CEO may not be an appropriate description. "In fact, my role is more like an engineer who develops technology."

Although the position is also "global CEO", Zhu Xiaotong's future scope of responsibilities may be limited to the automotive business, excluding autonomous driving and robotics projects.

So, Musk's idea is likely to be:

I'm going to concentrate on technology, and I can rest assured that the company will leave it to you.

▲ Picture from: Getty Images

However, before taking charge of Tesla China, Zhu Xiaotong did not have any executive experience. Why did Musk choose him?

According to CNBC reports, in the face of a huge business landscape, Musk has a "think tank" of more than 20 people to advise him on Tesla's business alone.

CNBC stated that this list will change as Tesla's strategy and organization change. There are currently 27 people on this team, most of whom are from Tesla’s two core offices in Fremont and Austin, and there are only 3 executives outside the United States:

  • Lothar Thommes, Global Vice President and Managing Director based in Germany
  • Joe Ward, global vice president in charge of Tesla's Europe, Middle East and Africa business

The last one is naturally the president of Tesla Greater China, Zhu Xiaotong.

Zhu Xiaotong's ability to become Tesla's first Greater China executive who directly reports to Musk is related to the increasing weight of the Chinese market on the one hand, and it is also inseparable from Zhu Xiaotong's "personal efforts."

Pinwan mentioned in the article "Tesla China's Chaos Revealing the Third Season" that shortly after taking office, Zhu Xiaotong told the media that he flew to the United States almost every two weeks to report to Musk. Because he thinks the most important thing is communication. Such frequent communication has gradually evolved into a one-line connection between Zhu Xiaotong and Musk.

A Chinese-American Tesla employee who had a meeting with Zhu Xiaotong and Musk once revealed: "It is always good news but not bad news, and Zhu Xiaotong's report is very good."

(One month after the article was published, Pinwan was sued by Tesla, and the case has now been judged in the first instance, and Tesla won the case, but Pinwan appealed, saying that the article did not contain any cover-ups, fabrications, or fabrications— — Note by Dong Chehui)

In addition, Zhu Xiaotong's opportunity to have such an opportunity is related to the structure of Tesla's current executive team.

In the list of 27 executives, most of them are responsible for software and hardware system research and development, vehicle manufacturing, supply chain management, human resources, etc. Zhu Xiaotong is the only person who can be in charge of sales and has achieved outstanding results.

In a successful factory, there is always a boss sleeping

A former Tesla employee said to the Board of Directors, "Tom Zhu is a more easy-going person, and he sometimes plays kings with everyone in the office," but suddenly the topic changed——

In fact, it is quite strict, that is… He has contributed a lot to making Tesla China like this.

The so-called "this way" is naturally not a good look.

Pinwan quoted an unnamed source in the report, saying that Zhu Xiaotong is very close to Musk in some key characteristics-close to 24 hours of focus on work, replying to work information at 3-4 in the morning, almost no personal life, for subordinates Requirements are strict, even harsh.

Working at Tesla is "really tiring, very tiring, and heart-tiring," said the above-mentioned employee to Dong Chehui.

▲ Picture from: Liberation Daily

In March of this year, Jiefang Daily visited Zhu Xiaotong's workplace in the Shanghai factory—a "small desk" located in the office area on the second floor of the factory. On the corner of the desk was the breakfast he brought to the office.

What happens when a strict boss sits with the employees below him?

Pinwan once quoted most of the employees close to Zhu Xiaotong as saying that working in the same area with Zhu Xiaotong made them feel extremely uneasy, because no matter how late they worked overtime the day before, there is a high probability that Zhu Xiaotong will show up in the office area on time the next morning , he will pay special attention to the vacant workstations, then take pictures, and ask the employee in the work group why he did not come to work.

At the end of March, the epidemic broke out in Shanghai. In order to facilitate work, Zhu Xiaotong lived directly inside the Shanghai factory, even though the Shanghai factory had stopped production at this time. Teslarati reporter Simon Alvarez called him "one of Tesla's hardest working employees in China."

Interestingly, Musk is also happy to sleep in the factory.

"I lived in the Fremont factory and the Nevada factory for three years," Musk said. Of course, he's no longer there, and Twitter's San Francisco headquarters has become his new home.

Recently, he even converted some offices at Twitter's headquarters into bedrooms for employees who work overnight. The move drew an investigation from the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, who said the code requirements for commercial buildings are not the same as those for residential buildings.

There is no doubt that Musk needs a CEO who can often sleep in the various Gigafactories.

On December 8, Bloomberg reported that Zhu Xiaotong had been called to Texas by Musk this week to help run the Austin factory.

Hope he gets a good night's sleep there.

The author is a little busy, so I will write an introduction later.

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