TOM ZHU Visual China Group via Getty Images 1 1

Visual China Group via Getty Images

Tom Zhu

Vice President, Tesla China

One of the most viral business videos of this year was undoubtedly Tesla boss Elon Musk dad-dancing at the opening of the company’s new Shanghai manufacturing plant. But while the performance made great meme material, it perhaps overshadowed something much more interesting: the importance of China to the Tesla story.

By June, China accounted for roughly 23% of Tesla’s total revenues, a big jump from close to 12% at the end of 2019. This is expected to grow even more over the next year as the Shanghai plant ramps up its vehicle production numbers.

Charged with managing that rapid growth is Tom Zhu, vice president at Tesla China.

Educated in New Zealand and the US, Zhu joined Tesla in 2014. Before taking on the China role, Zhu had an APAC leadership remit, but Tesla eventually dismantled its regional operations, emphasizing further the company’s reliance on Chinese manufacturing and sales.

While China is big on potential for Tesla, it is not without serious competition in the high-end-EV category. Zhu’s challenge will be to increase share of a market that is becoming filled by local rivals buoyed up by deep-pocketed investors.