There is definitely a culture of pushing employees to their limits at Tesla, and it seems to extend to the company’s higher ups, not just assembly line workers. Zhu Xiaotong, who also goes by Tom Zhu, was picked by Elon Musk to be his second-in-command specifically because of his commitment to keep Tesla’s Shanghai gigafactory operational through the worst of the Covid pandemic.
Tesla has not officially announced Zhu as a new global boss, but according to sources including Automotive News and Reuters, he is already overseeing the automaker’s international production operations, as well as sales and service. This essentially puts him right behind Elon Musk when it comes to the level of responsibility within the company, which he will now help lead from Austin, Texas where he arrived late last year.
Zhu joined Tesla in early 2014 in order to help the automaker expand its Supercharger network, but by the end of his first year with the company, he was promoted to the position of manager of the manufacturer’s China operations. Then in the latter part of 2019 he was promoted to global vice president and president of Greater China.
As of July 2022, he became the boss of Tesla’s entire Asia-Pacific side of the business. This is also when Elon Musk praised him for working long hours to make sure Tesla production in China remained online in spite of the severe pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns that had been imposed in the country at the time.
Musk was quoted as saying that he appreciates Zhu for “burning the 3AM oil,” referring to his commitment to stay late in order to ensure production continued.
Zhu is not one to stay in constant contact with the press, not even in China, but there are a handful of interviews online (mostly in Chinese) where he does share about himself and his role at Tesla. In an interview with PCAuto, he remarked that
The company's culture is not to waste resources and time on those fancy and nonsense things. Focus your main energy and resources into what really matters. We don't have a huge administrative organization here to service the management. Book tickets by yourself, grab your food by yourself. Everybody is very used to it, this is an expression of true equality, right?
Source: Automotive News