Tesla Officially Names Tom Zhu As Second-in-Command, Nominates JB Straubel to the Board

Tesla officially names Tom Zhu as second-in-command 6 photos
Photo: Tesla | Edited
Tom Zhu and Elon MuskTesla Giga ShanghaiTesla Giga BerlinRedwood Materials CEO JB StraubelFord and Redwood Materials Join Forces to Recycle Battery Packs
Tom Zhu has made one more step up Tesla's hierarchy ladder and oversees the entire Tesla Automotive operations. An SEC filing made this official, along with other surprising moves at Tesla, including the intention to bring back JB Straubel to the Board of Directors.
Elon Musk has always praised Tom Zhu for his performance while in charge of Tesla China operations. Giga Shanghai construction in record time and successfully ramping up production are just two of his merits. Around last December, rumors from China claimed that Zhu was groomed to be Elon Musk's successor, and from there, things started to unfold rapidly. In a move that appeared to confirm Chinese rumors, Tom Zhu was brought to the U.S. and put in charge of Giga Texas.

That still seemed like a demotion rather than a promotion, but Chinese media was adamant that Tom Zhu was in for a bigger role at Tesla. In January, an organizational chart seen by Reuters confirmed that the Chinese executive would oversee Tesla's assembly plants and sales operations in North America and Europe. He also kept his position as Vice President of Greater China. This made him the second highest-profile executive after CEO Elon Musk, but no official communication was made.

This came in a Form DEF 14A filed with the SEC, which lists Tom Zhu as Tesla's Senior Vice President of Automotive. This form type is intended to provide shareholders with adequate information to vote confidently at an upcoming shareholders' meeting. This has been scheduled for May 16, a little earlier than most analysts expected. There are many issues that Tesla investors are expected to vote on that day, including a change in Tesla's Board of Directors.

According to the form, Tom Zhu is presented as a competent executive, holding a bachelor's degree of commerce in information technology from the Auckland University of Technology and an M.B.A. from Duke University. Tom Zhu joined Tesla in April 2014 and served in various operational roles before being appointed Vice President of Greater China and, later, head of Tesla Asia Pacific. Tom Zhu was on stage during the 2023 Investor Day, when he was introduced as the head of North American sales, service, and deliveries.

The same SEC filing confirms that Elon Musk wants to name JB Straubel to Tesla's Board of Directors. Straubel, the founder and CEO of battery recycling startup Redwood Materials, would replace Hiromichi Mizuno, who will not stand for re-election when his current term expires. Straubel is also one of Tesla's founders who spent 14 years at Tesla as Chief Technology Officer before leaving to found Redwood Materials. Tesla shows that Straubel played a key role in its battery cell design, engineering, and production and was the one overseeing Giga Nevada and Model 3 production ramp.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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