Elon Musk Draws From International Bench to Kickstart Tesla Austin Production

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague
elon musk draws from international bench to kickstart tesla austin production

Elon Musk, now running Twitter on top of a handful of other companies, may be overloaded but at least recognizes the need for help. Automotive News reported that the Tesla CEO brought a veteran exec from the company’s Shanghai Gigafactory to Austin, where the automaker plans to ramp up Model Y and Cybertruck production.

Tom Zhu was involved in the buildout of Tesla’s Supercharger network and helped manage the construction of the Shanghai facility. He came with a team of engineers from China to push the Austin factory through the last stages of construction and tooling. 

Tesla is counting on the Austin plant to help its vehicles meet the new Inflation Reduction Act's requirements. The rules state that an EV and its battery must be produced in North America to qualify. Tesla’s also staring down record demand for its vehicles, so another production outlet would release some pressure. 

Battery development is another concern for the automaker, as it’s having a more challenging time than expected rolling out its new 4680 battery. The company has claimed a significant cost reduction with the batteries. Still, production is slower than desired, leading it to opt for an older battery in the Model Y to meet demand. The big question will be whether Tesla can push its production volume far enough to support an eventual Cybertruck release.

[Image: Roschetzky Photography via Shutterstock]  

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10 of 11 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Dec 08, 2022

    If the whole EV thing doesn't work out, Tesla should go into the construction business.

    (Impressive time to build that plant, is what I'm saying.)

  • VoGhost VoGhost on Dec 08, 2022

    Makes sense. Giga Shanghai now produces Model Ys at an annual rate > a million units, making it the most productive auto factory on earth. Working that magic at Austin, while also getting the CyberTruck into production in '23 are major milestones for Tesla's ongoing success.

    • See 1 previous
    • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Dec 09, 2022

      "You might want to ask yourself why a factory in China is next-level productive before lauding how productive it is. Just saying."

      Have you ever been to a Chinese high-tech factory?

      I have--many times; they are not the sweat shops you are imagining. The Chinese are smart, and they are willing to work hard; that's why their factories are productive.

  • FreedMike FreedMike on Dec 08, 2022

    I were Musk, I'd be leaning HARD on the Texas legislature to end that state's BS restrictions on selling Teslas there - the company spent billions on this plant, and will spend billions more employing Texans to work there.

    • See 2 previous
    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Dec 11, 2022

      A more interesting and productive question for most people might be, "If Elon Musk woke up in my shoes tomorrow, what are the first things he would do, and the first things he would stop doing?" (Also interesting to try this thought experiment with other people -- try Jim Farley, Bill Ford, Carlos Tavares.)

      [If Jim Farley woke up in my situation tomorrow, he would call Bill Ford and ask about employment opportunities. If Bill Ford woke up as me, he would try immediately to get adopted by a better family than mine. If Carlos Tavares woke up in my situation, he would order a Nomex suit -- because I don't own one. See? It's fun.]

  • Tassos Tassos on Dec 11, 2022

    I searched for an appropriate article to make this comment, but there was no exact fit anywhere, but this is the closest I found. I did my 90 min walk in the nearby park today as I do almost every day, and there was a grey car in the lot that, from the back, looked a little like a Porsche to me. I went closer, and sure it was. Not a 911, or a Cayman, but a BEV Taycan. I really was not impressed. The back was not nearly as attractive as the 911 or even the Cayman/Boxster. The front beak was also unremarkable. From the outside the whole car looks smaller than the huge vehicle it really is. (It's probably the curvy exterior, straight lines make the car look bigger). The worst thing for such an expensive car was the awful paintjob color choice. It was a dull gray, not really metallic, not silver, just an industrial, bleak gray. Not even the far more attractive GUNMETAL Gray. It sure ruined the expensive car's looks.