Will Tom Zhu Replace Elon Musk as CEO? He's No Longer Tesla China's Legal Representative

You must already be familiar with Tom Zhu. Bloomberg reported on December 8 that the Chinese Tesla executive was in the U.S. to oversee Giga Austin operations and try to improve them. However, news from China shows he will probably stay on American soil for more time than previously imagined.
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According to the local media, Zhu is no longer Tesla China’s legal representative. That task is currently in the hands of Wang Hao, the company’s general manager in the world’s largest car market. The weird bit is that Zhu is still Tesla China’s chairman, but the explanation may rest on bigger plans for the Chinese executive.

Having Zhu take care of Giga Austin looks like a demotion. The man who runs the show in China would not be happy with only taking care of one of Tesla’s plants, especially if Giga Shanghai is one of the leading factories for the EV maker. As we have written before, the plant that really needs help is Giga Grünheide.

That said, Zhu must be preparing to replace Elon Musk as Tesla’s CEO, as PingWest reported on the same day Bloomberg released news about Zhu in the U.S.: December 8. A Tesla CEO could accumulate Tesla China’s chairman job with no conflicts. On the other hand, it would be weird to have a plant manager on that task.

Zhu will have a lot of work to put an order in the mess that Tesla currently faces. The company keeps announcing more investments in production and rumors of new factories despite its aging lineup and a dropping demand for its cars. Troy Teslike recently disclosed how Tesla’s worldwide backlog fell from 190,000 on November 30 to 163,000 on December 8.

For you to have an idea of what that represents, the company’s backlog was around 470,000 cars from March 11 until July 27, when it started to drop to the current levels. Tesla even offered discounts in China and the U.S. to try to revert that, but it did not work. Coincidence or not, July was the month Twitter sued Elon Musk for him to buy the company as he had committed to do when he signed a contract with it.

Zhu ceasing to be Tesla China's legal representative, as CNEVPost reported, is quite meaningful. Should the executive become the new Tesla CEO, he will have to speed up presenting new models, including the affordable one that should sit below the Model 3. Finishing the Cybertruck’s development and putting it for sale will also show if the more than 1.5 million people who pre-ordered one will really get the vehicle or ask for their $100 back. Above all, a new CEO should start planning instead of just chaotically deciding anything. Anyone who could avoid buying a social media company out of the blue – and selling Tesla stock to do so – would already help.

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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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