The dark spot under the halo: Demystifying the power siege of Tesla China

On the evening of January 7, 2020, the temperature of Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory was much higher than that of the wind roaring outdoors. Elon Musk had just finished an impromptu dance on the stage and turned around and furious in the factory. This is related to the lack of cleanliness of a batch of batteries. In the early morning of September 23,On Tesla’s first battery day, Musk introduced Tesla and its new batteries to investors in a fascinating manner. By increasing energy density and electricity, the battery life increased by 16%. He also has high hopes for the Shanghai Super Factory-looking forward to achieving the production target of 1 million vehicles.

The dark spot under the halo: Demystifying the power siege of Tesla China 1

Sina Technology Hua Zijian

But in China, the pride that this attention brings is different from the pride of the original mission. When the vision is inconsistent with reality, the old employees are not only lost, but also helpless.

In the eyes of these people, the Tesla brand still bears the halo of a high-tech company, but in China, this halo is gradually dimming, and its behavior is becoming more and more like a car company-I don’t know when. It began to chase sales, it began to make enemies on all sides, and it is becoming the post-dinner talk of public opinion…

The Pinduoduo incident reflects the isolation, conformity, arrogance and sluggishness of Tesla after China’s centralization. Perhaps this is a turning point for Tesla China. The public began to observe Tesla’s every move with a magnifying glass.

Just as after the recent out-of-control incidents of Tesla cars in Wenzhou and Sichuan, users no longer look at these incidents with rational eyes, and public opinion is polarized and becoming more and more intense.

If you want to truly understand Tesla China, Zhu Xiaotong is an inescapable role. He is the helm of China. There is an internal saying that Zhu Xiaotong is more and more like Musk.

The Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory created the speed of construction, production and delivery that year. Zhu Xiaotong has made steady progress within Tesla. In Tesla’s power system, he is no longer sitting in the position of general manager of the China region, knowing how to choose between advances and retreats; now, he has begun to instill more personal will into every corner he can see.

Sina Technology went deep behind the scenes of Tesla China, trying to restore the company’s “dark spots” under the halo. Internally, many employees believe that Zhu Xiaotong now is very different from before; and Tesla has also changed a lot, but the steadily rising sales cover up the problems of Tesla China.

Musk is angry

The Shanghai Super Factory is the booster of Zhu Xiaotong’s rise and the backing of Tesla China.

Zhu Xiaotong is a very lucky person-Shanghai Super Factory was planted by the predecessors, and he picked the fruits. As early as 2017, Ren Yuxiang, then president of Tesla’s Asia-Pacific region, brought a very capable negotiating team to mediate with the governments of many places in China, of which Shanghai has the most contact.

Finally, on July 10, 2018, Tesla and Shanghai Lingang signed a memorandum of cooperation.

But just after the signing was completed, Ren Yuxiang was transferred back to the United States and was no longer responsible for the Asia-Pacific business. At that time, Zhu Xiaotong, who was only in charge of the business in China, was promoted to vice president of Tesla Asia Pacific, in charge of the Asia Pacific and Shanghai Gigafactory. But for the Shanghai Super Factory, Zhu Xiaotong chose to retreat behind the scenes.

On January 7, 2019, the Shanghai Super Factory broke ground, when Shanghai Lingang was still a piece of farmland. Many employees recalled that after the construction of the super factory, the increasingly complicated daily work made Zhu Xiaotong no time to take care of the two core businesses of sales and factory. He chose to abandon the title of Asia Pacific region and concentrate on the construction of the factory. At that time, his title was also low-key updated to Tesla’s vice president in charge of the Shanghai Gigafactory.

In the end, Zhu Xiaotong’s low profile paid off. On January 7, 2020, Tesla delivered the domestic Tesla Model 3 to the first batch of social car owners. For this important moment, Elon Musk came from Los Angeles the night before, and even swiped the screen on social media with the idea of ​​”overtaking the Eastern Airlines flight that took off first and landing in Shanghai.”

Construction and delivery are scheduled for January 7, which is the date set by Elon Musk, because this day is the anniversary of the death of the famous American engineer, admirer of alternating current, and inventor Nikola Tesla.

For Zhu Xiaotong, these are also the two most important January 7ths in his life. Many people in Tesla believe that Zhu Xiaotong has become one of the people most trusted by Musk and has entered the core of Tesla’s power system.

On the day of the delivery of the domestic Model 3, Musk in a good mood also responded to the host’s request on the stage, improvising. But it seems a little bit happy and sad. Just after the delivery on the same day, Musk, who originally planned to leave Shanghai and return to Los Angeles the next morning, learned that there was a problem with the installation of a batch of batteries in the factory and the cleanliness did not meet the standard.


Musk was very angry about this, “I’m here to watch. Whenever you solve this problem, I will leave.” At the factory, he didn’t seem to hesitate at all and gave the order directly. One of the engineers who was present was very impressed by this scene.

Including Zhu Xiaotong, Tao Lin and Wang Hao who were accompanying at the delivery site at that time were very nervous. The three emptied their schedules at the same time, pushed back various work agendas, and accompanied Musk on the spot to supervise the resolution of the problem. . After a night of overtime, the problem was resolved. Musk’s departure time was changed from the morning of January 8 to the afternoon of the same day.

Musk’s anger cannot deny the success of Tesla’s gamble on the Shanghai Super Factory, but it can also be seen that behind Tesla’s speed are management disorder and instability. Just before the official delivery of the domestic Tesla Model 3, with a series of self-will manifestations after Zhu Xiaotong’s return, Tesla China has undergone continuous personnel changes.

Siege of Power

One month before the delivery, that is, in December 2019, Zhu Xiaotong decided to move the office in Beijing to Shanghai, leaving only some functional staff in Beijing, such as public relations, government relations, finance and taxation, and the remaining recruitment in Beijing The quota was also transferred directly to Shanghai. People who had passed from Beijing, along with the staff in the Taikoo Hui office in Shanghai, moved to the Lingang area where the super factory is located.

However, the infrastructure around the Shanghai Super Factory is relatively lacking, and there are not many residential areas. At a time, as many as four residential communities are almost full of Tesla employees, including the workers of the Super Factory. Tesla China grants rental subsidies to workers in Lingang District, and the subsidy amount is 12,000 yuan every six months.

This relocation plan was not accepted by most of the employees in Beijing, and a wave of resignations gradually emerged. An employee told Sina Technology that nearly 30 people in Tesla China’s Beijing office resigned because they did not want to relocate. The Beijing office of China Central Place occupies two and a half floors. After the relocation, one floor was rented.

Some middle and senior managers also chose to leave. Yang Xixi, the head of Tesla’s legal department in China, is one of them. The legal department was once one of Zhu Xiaotong’s least favorite business departments, and he was dubbed “Say No Professional Account”. number. Liu Yuan, the senior human manager of Tesla China, also resigned. After Liu Yuan left, everyone in the human resources department also left. An early employee of Tesla China, Wang Baishi, who was in charge of charging pile technology, also chose to leave a few months after the order was issued.

However, this did not stop Zhu Xiaotong’s determination to move from Beijing to Shanghai and set Tesla’s China headquarters in the Shanghai Super Factory.

This is Zhu Xiaotong’s unhuman side. He also issued many regulations and requirements that were incomprehensible. For example, in the case of Pinduoduo group buying, he asked all employees to forward good news and reports to Tesla in Moments, or to report in articles that were not good for Tesla.

For another example, in the past two years, Tesla’s price fluctuations have hurt many consumers. Even after the Tesla Model 3 was made in China, the label of “cut leek” has not been removed.

Zhu Xiaotong is quite concerned about this. He internally forbids employees to say the word “leeks”, and if they are found, they will be fined 10 yuan once, without a ceiling; at the same time, he also prohibits food containing leeks from the base camp Shanghai Super Factory, such as leek buns and leek dumplings.

Only talking about work and goals, not about human relations, this seems to have formed a fixed perception among the top of Tesla China. Tao Lin, Tesla’s vice president of external affairs, once spoke publicly at a conference that Tesla has no difference between men and women, only those who accomplish their goals and those who have not.

Many incomprehensible regulations and concepts have made many people feel that in China, Tesla’s values ​​are slowly changing and the elite culture is slowly disappearing.

Although Musk still talks about “Tesla allows every employee to contact me” in various public occasions, “Tesla allows employees to leave unnecessary meetings” and so on, but in China, this possibility no longer exists. , It is difficult for one’s own ideas to reach the senior level, and they have to participate in many unnecessary and cumbersome meetings.

Many Tesla China employees feel very frustrated. Before working at Tesla, I felt novel ideas, strong technical atmosphere and grand corporate mission; now I have to face all kinds of unpopular but plausible administrative orders.

This change began with Zhu Xiaotong’s return. Many people feel that Zhu Xiaotong has also changed after the return.

A number of current and resigned employees recalled that at the end of April 2019, many important emails began to be copied to Zhu Xiaotong. At that time, Zhu Xiaotong had been away from the front desk for some time, and was responsible for the construction of the super factory in the farmland of Shanghai Lingang.

In May, Zhu Xiaotong suddenly expressed his birthday wishes to one of the employees in the employee group. Many people are puzzled about this, because Zhu Xiaotong has never done this before. A number of Tesla employees told Sina Technology that many people speculated that Zhu Xiaotong was coming back.

Zhu Xiaotong, who has lived in the Shanghai Super Factory site for half a year, was once in charge of sales in China and achieved quite good results. Therefore, there were indeed many internal voices hoping that Zhu Xiaotong could return.

This is also due to the fact that Tesla faced many difficulties in China in the second half of 2018, and its sales revenue fell by 15% in the second half of the year. Many employees who have resigned mentioned a detail to Sina Technology. In order to impact the delivery volume, many Beijing employees had to go to the experience center in Yizhuang to assist in the delivery in early 2019. Among them, one employee made a busy mistake and was punished during the delivery process. The individual’s driving license was revoked as a result.

In the impression of many employees, Zhu Xiaotong is a smart person as well as a workaholic. He devoted himself to work and rarely had time to spend with his family. Even if he emailed him at three in the morning, he could reply within 15 minutes.

Of course, Zhu Xiaotong understands the significance of the Shanghai Gigafactory to Tesla, which is no less than a gamble by Tesla. This factory undertakes the mass production of the domestic Tesla Model 3 and can directly deliver it to Chinese consumers, greatly reducing the impact of uncertain factors such as tariffs on car sales.

In the end, as many people have guessed, after a series of preparations, Zhu Xiaotong returned to the front desk only a few days after expressing his birthday wishes to the employees.

The dark spot under the halo: Demystifying the power siege of Tesla China 2

In June 2019, Tesla decided to withdraw the Asia-Pacific region and newly established the Greater China region. Zhu Xiaotong was appointed as Tesla’s global vice president and president of Greater China, and he reported directly to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The return of Zhu Xiaotong has made Tesla China become more independent and centralized: In China, including sales, marketing, public communications, engineering, and after-sales services, the departments that originally reported to Tesla headquarters with solid lines and Zhu Xiaotong with dotted lines are all Report directly to Zhu Xiaotong instead. Taiwan, Hong Kong and other sales regions are also included in the Greater China region, and the regional sales director reports to Zhu Xiaotong.

Even Zhu Xiaotong also requires employees working in Greater China to change a habit, that is, when there is no need for Americans, the email communication between business departments must use Chinese; law, vehicle engineering and finance For departments that maintain a solid line to report to the headquarters, he also mandates the use of Chinese in internal communication. It turns out that the Chinese department that reports to the headquarters with a solid line, even if it communicates with the internal affairs of the Chinese district, uses English as the mail language.

In China, Tesla has formed a new management with Zhu Xiaotong, Wang Hao and Tao Lin as the core. Among them, in October 2018, Zhu Xiaotong issued an internal email announcing that Wang Hao would serve as general manager of China, responsible for sales business; Tao Lin was promoted from general manager of public affairs in China to vice president of external affairs of Tesla in November 2018. Responsible for foreign affairs in China.

Great changes have also taken place in the middle of Tesla China. Market leader Liu Qiuwen and public relations leader Zheng Simin left Tesla China. Zhu Xiaotong promoted Wang Xiaowei to the head of Tesla Construction Company, responsible for the site selection and construction of stores, factories, charging piles, and the original charging business. Wang Xiaowei and Zhu Xiaotong were born and died in Africa, and they have won the trust of the latter.

The second one to be promoted by Zhu Xiaotong is Song Gang, the manufacturing director of Tesla’s Shanghai plant. After Zhu Xiaotong took charge of the Shanghai Super Factory project, Song Gang has been following the former, so Zhu Xiaotong naturally promoted Song Gang after his promotion.

In addition, Wang Wenjia, who was originally in charge of vehicle engineering, later served as chief engineer of the Greater China region, responsible for the R&D center, whose functions cover vehicle engineering. Xue Juncheng continues to be responsible for after-sales and service in Greater China, reporting directly to Zhu Xiaotong.

After Wang Hao was promoted by Zhu Xiaotong, he also promoted two middle managers, namely Kong Yanshuang, the sales director in charge of the Shenzhen area, and Xu Yao, the sales director in charge of the Guangzhou area. Both were born in EF English. The former served as the store manager of the Shanghai Jinqiao store before being transferred to Shenzhen. Represented by the two, many of Tesla’s sales in Guangzhou and Shenzhen are from EF English. In addition, Ma Li and Gong Ling, who were promoted by Zhu Xiaotong with Wang Hao, were responsible for the North District and the East District respectively. Four people are in charge of the four major sales areas of Tesla China.

After this series of personnel changes, Zhu Xiaotong firmly held the power of core businesses such as the Shanghai super factory, sales and experience stores, and charging pile network in his own hands. Zhu Xiaotong and Tesla China first got rid of the Asia-Pacific region, and then further out of the world, achieving an unprecedented concentration of power in the history of Greater China.

Restraint and advance

In March 2020, dozens of domestic Model 3 owners stated that without their knowledge, the HW3.0 version of the self-driving hardware that should be configured for the domestic Model 3 they purchased was “reduced” and replaced with a 21 times performance difference. HW2.5 version.

Tesla’s Chinese official said on March 3: Due to the supply chain, some of the standard battery life upgraded Model 3 is installed with HW2.5 hardware. With the recovery of production capacity and supply chain, these cars will be replaced with HW3 for free in the future. 0.

But Elon Musk’s remarks on Twitter on March 5 are puzzling. He probably meant “Chinese people are inexplicable”-“It is strange that the car owners who complained did not actually order FSD. They may It is not clear that if FSD is ordered again after delivery, the corresponding computer hardware can be upgraded for free.” He responded to the “reduction door”.

This makes many Tesla China employees feel inexplicable, because Tesla has never made it clear anywhere that it needs to purchase an FSD with a price of 56,000 yuan to upgrade computer hardware. Many people believe that such a statement should not come from Musk. It is likely that the information transmission is distorted, causing Musk to make a wrong judgment.

Musk has never denied the sales performance of the Chinese team, and Tesla is increasingly dependent on the Chinese market for sales. However, in the case of the reduction door, one can still see the barrier between Tesla China and the headquarters. .

Of course, it is difficult for Tesla’s headquarters to delegate power to China, especially in core businesses such as finance, selling prices, and vehicle engineering. Tesla China still has to be restricted by the headquarters.

This is why there are many user experience content on Tesla cars that have been criticized by Chinese car owners, but Tesla China is unable to provide better solutions, such as maps. In May 2018, Tesla chose Tencent Maps as the car navigation map for Chinese car owners on the new S/X.

However, Chinese car owners encountered many problems in the process of using Tencent maps, and they complained that Tencent maps were not easy to use. The key to solving this problem lies not in Tencent, but in the vehicle engineering department of Tesla’s headquarters.

Tesla’s Chinese map is divided into three layers: the bottom layer is developed by Tesla, the middle layer is provided by NavInfo, and the front end is Tencent map. If you want to achieve optimization, you must start optimization from the underlying architecture. However, the Chinese engineering department has no right to optimize the underlying framework of the Tesla map, and can only submit the demand to the vehicle engineering department at the headquarters.

Finally, in January 2020, Tesla announced that it would replace the original Tencent map with Baidu map. In Tencent’s internal forums, people who once had Tencent Maps posted their dissatisfaction with Tesla, saying that it was because Tencent Maps had been criticized too much on Tesla vehicles and chose to abandon the cooperation with Tesla. It is not that Tencent has no technological capability to improve, but because of Tesla’s limitations, it can’t do anything.

Zhu Xiaotong is trying to reduce his dependence on the headquarters, which will help him gain more autonomy, and the new crown pneumonia epidemic has helped Zhu Xiaotong. Starting from the Chinese Lunar New Year in 2020, flights between China and the United States have plummeted, and almost no one from the US headquarters has visited Greater China.

It was originally planned that the battery workshop of the Shanghai Super Factory would be instructed by engineers from the US headquarters, and German engineers would be responsible for installation and commissioning, and then the actual operation by Chinese workers. But later because the Americans could not come, more than 20 German engineers came to Shanghai before the epidemic. Seeing this, the Germans also want to leave.

But in the end, Zhu Xiaotong persuaded the Germans to stay and have been stationed in the Shanghai Super Factory to manufacture equipment installation and commissioning. In addition, German engineers are specially approved to leave the Chinese workers. After the workshop is fully disinfected, they will be escorted into the workshop by medical personnel. After the work is completed, they will be escorted back to their residence by medical personnel. With this, Zhu Xiaotong got rid of some dependence on the personnel of the US headquarters.

Of course, Zhu Xiaotong also knows to advance and retreat when fighting for what he wants. At the beginning of 2020, China organized a rider event in Guangzhou, and invited the blog columnist Vincent, who is very concerned by Musk, to participate. The latter is a firm advocate of Tesla. Musk then praised Vincent’s report. After learning of Musk’s attitude, Zhu Xiaotong listed the operation of Chinese car owners as a key task in China in 2020, and held a number of car owners’ conferences.

Hidden danger emerges

Musk must rely on Zhu Xiaotong, because Tesla wants to sell more cars and has to rely on the fast-growing Chinese market. The latest model, Model Y, has also begun to be made in China, and mass production is expected to be off the assembly line in December this year, and the first batch of deliveries will be achieved in early 2021.

With the increase in the output of the super factory, the increase in models and the increase in sales targets. Tesla China has the potential to sell more cars. On the one hand, they give salespeople more sales targets based on the existing experience centers; on the other hand, they want to open more experience centers and recruit more sales. engineer.

But for a company with a market value of more than $400 billion, it is understandable that it wants to sell more cars. However, Tesla’s actions have been deformed.

A few days after the release of the Xiaopeng P7, at one of the Tesla Experience Centers in Beijing, a salesperson once mentioned when recommending the domestic Model 3 that “Xpeng P7 is made by imitating this car.” This was not the case in the past. Something that might happen. Even Tesla did not think that they had rivals in the past, because they did not regard themselves as a car company, but as a technology company, a company that provides lifestyles, and a company that exists for the sustainable development of the planet.

When Jon McNeill was the President of Global Sales and Service, he asked Tesla’s sales staff not to sell vehicles to users, but to sell them Tesla’s philosophy and technology lifestyle, and required sales managers to ask Spend 20% of the time in stores, work with employees in first-line stores, and grasp the concerns of consumers.

As the person in charge of global sales, Jon McNeiil practiced himself and would often come to the store to get in touch with front-line jobs and understand the ideas of salespeople and customers. Even during his business trip in Shanghai, he took a day to work in the experience center to ensure that he fully understands the market situation and customer feedback. As a result, many Tesla employees now attribute the increase in Model 3 sales to Jon McNeiil. His sales system has obtained many sales leads, and many of them have become Model 3 owners.

But today, the quality of sales engineers recruited by Tesla China is deteriorating-this has a certain relationship with the speed of store expansion.

In June 2020, Tao Lin, Tesla’s vice president of external affairs, announced on personal social media the Tesla central city entry plan, including four major locations in the east, west, south and north, and a total of 45 cities, including Yancheng, Nanning, Huzhou, and Taizhou This is also known as Tesla’s sinking plan in third- and fourth-tier cities such as Linyi and Linyi.

In the early days, Tesla’s experience center had many highly educated talents, including masters and overseas returnees. They came to Tesla to become a product expert based on their admiration and love for Tesla. Now, Tesla is hiring automotive product experts at a faster pace, even setting a record of hiring on the same day, joining the next day, and participating in intensive training on the third day.

Excessive recruitment speed has led to uneven quality of product experts. Most of these newcomers were previously engaged in insurance sales, credit card sales, and course sales. Car sales are equivalent to cross-border. This is not occupational discrimination, but compared with before, many old Tesla employees have a sense of loss-this is not the Tesla they know.

There is even a situation where the sales person in charge sets up a time node for product experts to complete the temporary sales target when they know that the price is about to be reduced. For example, they need to call 500 customers to ask about their purchase intentions within a week. Promote more customers to place deals before the price cuts.

This situation is not only in the sales system, but also in the Shanghai Super Factory. Once a Model 3 owner found that he could not plug the charging gun into the charging port when he went to charge, because the charging port was too small. However, more than 400 vehicles with such problems were still produced, passed inspections, and some were sold to consumers. Eventually, these vehicles were recalled.

A corner of chaos uncovered by Pinduoduo

Similar to the Pinduoduo group buying incident, it is not unheard of. In April 2020, Tesla China used to look for Li Jiaqi to cooperate, but then Taobao recommended Wei Ya.

A Tesla insider involved in the project talked about this at the time. Wei Ya is very optimistic about the cooperation with Tesla and thinks it can help enhance the value of her personal brand, so she is willing to pay 2 million yuan out of her pocket and give 20,000 yuan subsidies for each of 100 cars, but the only requirement is that she cannot explain this to the outside world The money is paid by itself; Taobao is naturally unwilling to bear its bad reputation. In the end, Tesla China refused.

Wei Ya’s live broadcast of Tesla Model 3 didn’t stop, and instead sold Tesla’s test drives and peripheral products on the live broadcast.

While Pinduoduo’s group buying was fermenting, on the evening of July 20th, Wang Hao, general manager of Tesla’s China region, informed the company that “no one is allowed to sell cars to this company (Yibuy cars)” and asked the people under his hands Reprimanded.

“Fight to the end.” Zhu Xiaotong said.

But the high-level anger and prohibition order have not been put into actual action. Because Tesla’s sales engineers and delivery personnel have no way to deal with it. This is because Tesla cannot trace the source of each order, that is, Tesla actually cannot identify where the order comes from.

At the beginning, Tesla’s sales placed orders, even by mail, so there have been cases where a car was sold twice or even three times. Later, even with a sales system, the entire process of order traceability could not be realized. Therefore, Wang Hao’s “prohibition of selling cars to Yibu” is more like an internal slogan.

Tesla China is not without a public relations department, but in this confrontation with Pinduoduo, Tesla China’s public relations system has almost failed. This is also a microcosm of Tesla China’s continued turmoil in the past year.

Tesla’s sales in China are still strong. In July and August 2020, Tesla sold more than 24,000 vehicles in China. It is basically certain that the quarterly goal can be achieved, which is enough to continue to consolidate its position in the second largest market.

Among them, on August 30th, Tesla sold 712 vehicles in China. By contrast, Tesla sold only 1,050 vehicles in Europe for the entire month of July.

This also shows how important the Chinese market is to Tesla. And Tesla China is still looking for ways to further increase sales. In the latest adjustment, Tesla plans to adjust the Chinese market into four sales regions, namely the East, West, North and South. Among them, the former North District, Shenzhen and Guangzhou have been adjusted to the North District, West District and South District respectively.

The Pinduoduo group buyer who was refused delivery by Tesla fell in love with Tesla, which represents high-tech, because he often saw news about Space X. But as he became the focus of public opinion, the public seemed to be able to see Tesla’s changes.

On the one hand, Tesla insists on its dogma and seems to have no room for negotiation; on the other hand, it is increasingly letting go of its figure and sinking to fight other competitors.

Selling cars has become the most important job for Tesla China. It is trying its best to sink and go to every corner of China. Tesla was not willing to regard itself as a car company at first, but in Tesla China, it is more and more like a car company.