In a Twitter photo celebrating Tesla Inc. producing 3,000 Model Ys a week at its Texas factory last month, Zhu Xiaotong, who goes by Tom Zhu, stood smiling to the left of the large crowd in a hi-visibility vest and black cap imprinted with a white "T" for Tesla.
Zhu, who spearheaded the U.S. carmaker's Asia Pacific operations and oversaw Tesla's factory in Shanghai become its most productive in the world, was brought over to Austin late last year to help run the company's newest plant. Although Tesla hasn't made any formal announcement and has yet to name him as an executive officer, it's understood Zhu is now overseeing global automotive production, sales and service, a level of responsibility arguably second only to Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.
So who is Zhu, whose role is all the more important in light of Musk's preoccupation with Twitter Inc. and shareholder demands for more transparency about who's next in line after Musk?
Born in China and also reportedly holding a New Zealand passport, Zhu joined Tesla in early 2014 to help build out its Supercharger network. Prior to that, he helped found an international engineering consultancy offering services to Chinese contractors wanting to expand overseas. He holds a Bachelor's degree of commerce in information technology from Auckland University of Technology and later graduated from the MBA program at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.