Tesla is looking for a design chief to manufacture cars for China

BEIJING: Tesla Inc is looking for a design director in China, as part of efforts to open a “fully functional” studio in Shanghai or Beijing and design electric cars designed to suit the tastes of Chinese consumers, according to three people familiar with the subject.

Sources said that the US automaker’s human resource managers, as well as several headhunters, have been roaming the industry with trawlers for the past four months.

They added that they are looking for “bi-cultural” candidates with 20 years of experience or more who are familiar with Chinese tastes and can bridge the gaps between China and the United States.

Some of the candidates were interviewed by Tesla’s head of global design, Franz von Holzhausen, according to the people, although it was not clear how many potential candidates the company and recruiters had contacted.

The three sources spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter and its confidential nature.

Tesla and von Holzhausen did not respond to email requests for comment.

China is the largest auto market in the world, as well as the largest market for electric cars, with sales of nearly 1.5 million cars expected there this year, according to consultancy LMC Automotive. It is also Tesla’s No. 2 market after the United States.

The carmaker’s plans for the design studio have not been fully developed, and sources believe that Tesla will likely wait for more clarity about the strained relations between the United States and China under a new US president before making a final decision on the move and all its details.

The talent search, which sources said is focused primarily on China, fits with comments by Tesla Chairman Elon Musk early last year.

“I think something cool would be … the establishment of a Chinese Design and Engineering Center to design an original car in China for global consumption.” “I think that will be very exciting,” he said at a media event in Shanghai.

Flurry of activity

Musk’s interest in developing cars in China is part of a wider push from Tesla to boost the company’s global sales volume by over 500,000 cars a year, which was 450 cars less in 2020.

The three sources said Tesla’s search for a studio manager in China began around September, and there was a flurry of activity as recently as December when a number of headhunters used LinkedIn and other means to reach out to candidates.

One source, who has knowledge of Tesla’s headhunting activities in China, said that once a design director is hired, Tesla will recruit a director’s team that is likely to be around 20 and includes designers as well as designers who help turn design offerings into clay. Models.

All sources said that the planned center aims to be a comprehensive design, with one describing it as a “fully functional studio”, which will not only help in visualizing the design of the car but also in coming up with the final form. 3D digital data From the form.

The data can then be handed over to Tesla automotive engineers, who are based in Northern California.

Two sources said Tesla’s studio in China will also likely be researching the tastes of Chinese consumers, as well as work for cars expected to be produced at the Tesla car assembly plant in Shanghai, where designs are tweaked to ensure specific components fit engineers. Specifications.

“They want to give the car’s design more bias towards China; they’ve done a lot here already, setting up a major industrial site and selling a ton of electric vehicles, but it looks like Tesla is ready to put their roots down,” said one of the sources.

This person who has spent more than a decade in the country working in design centers run by global automakers, among other places, added this push could lead to more independence for Tesla China.

LMC said Chinese consumers bought around 145,000 Tesla cars last year, which accounts for nearly a third of the company’s total global volumes.

An electric car worth 25,000 USD

Two of the sources said one potential “China” model was a low-cost volume generator such as a US $ 25,000 electric vehicle that Musk pointed out at a Battery Day event in September, which he said Tesla might aim to bring it to market in about three years.

Musk said Tesla is confident of its ability to hit the market with “a very convincing $ 25,000 electric vehicle that’s also fully autonomous.”

At that price, according to two sources as well as industry experts, it is likely a compact car, smaller than the Tesla 3 model, which will be as affordable as some gasoline vehicles.

Compact cars are not the big sellers in the United States, as larger and taller cars like the Ford F-150 truck and SUVs dominate the road, as well as midsize sedans.

They account for about 10% of the total auto market in America. By contrast, combined contracts account for 25% of sales in China, or about 5-6 million vehicles annually, according to the consultancy LMC Automotive.

This is why the planned $ 25,000 car Musk discussed would be a better fit for the China market, according to exporters and industry experts.

“The compact Tesla will do well in China, as well as in the rest of Asia and Europe,” said Yale Zhang, president of the Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight.

“It could lead to a dangerous drop in sales of cars like the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf.”

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