Tesla to revamp Asia operations, aims to focus on China

By BLOOMBERG | 19 June 2019

BEIJING: Tesla Inc. is revamping its organization in Asia to put more focus on China as the company prepares to start manufacturing in the world’s largest electric-car market, people familiar with the matter said.

The company is dismantling its Asia Pacific business unit and forming a new division for Greater China that will cover the mainland as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, the people said, asking not to be named as the plan hasn’t been announced publicly. Tom Zhu, who took over as vice president of APAC operations from Robin Ren in 2018, will head the division, they said.

Chief executive officer Elon Musk is betting on China, Tesla’s biggest market after the US, to boost sales and restore investor confidence that has slumped along with the company’s stock this year. Tesla is building a factory in Shanghai that is slated to start operating later this year and bolster competitiveness in a country crowded with hundreds of electric-vehicle rivals.

Zhu will continue to lead the Shanghai factory operation, which he took charge of last year after managing other aspects of Tesla’s China business, including the rollout of its supercharger stations. He will also head sales and training for the country and a number of other teams, the people said. The Asia-Pacific region’s other teams will report to Tesla’s head office in Palo Alto, California, they said.

Tesla representatives in the US didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Neither did Musk. A Tesla representative in China directed Bloomberg to the company’s US headquarters. Zhu didn’t respond to several attempts to reach him by phone, and Ren didn’t respond to a text message.

The need for Tesla to expand beyond the US was highlighted by its latest quarterly results, which missed analysts’ projections. The halving of a federal tax incentive for Tesla purchases starting in January dragged on US demand in the quarter, and Tesla struggled to offset that drop by starting deliveries of the Model 3 in Europe and China.