Tesla Inc. is now hiring in China, and China Inc. is hiring in Tesla's backyard.
An innovator in Shanghai attended by Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, last week marked what will become the first factory in the nation wholly owned by a foreign automaker. Meanwhile, in the Silicon Valley neighborhood of Tesla, there are now a dozen electric car manufacturers with Chinese owners or sponsors who are setting up shops or recruiting former Musk coworkers. These well-financed startups, some of which have not sold a single car, are buying factories, testing prototypes on public roads and equipping luxurious offices in the San Francisco Bay area. Landing a former Tesla executive has become a great prize.
"Everyone wants to be the next Elon Musk: the Chinese Elon Musk," said Martin Eberhard, one of Tesla's founders when he was called Tesla Motors. He served on the board of EV Chinese manufacturer, SF Motors Inc., after he purchased his subsequent start-up from Tesla.
Faraday Future, a company founded by former Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, started working last year at a renovated tire factory in Hanford, California, about 200 miles from the Fremont plant in Tesla. A search on LinkedIn shows more than 70 Faraday employees who cite Tesla as past work experience, though not all of them stay after recent departures, and Faraday often boasts of hiring "top talent" such as Jeff Risher, the former chief of intellectual property and litigation of Tesla.
Byton, a company backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. that recently raised $ 500 million, hired former Tesla executive Tom Wessner as senior vice president of the global supply chain and, for the additional glitz of Silicon Valley, hired the former designer from Apple Inc. Jeff Chung. Byton, the brand of Future Mobility Corp., has an office in Santa Clara, California, and a new artificial intelligence laboratory in Los Angeles, where it employs engineers for research and development.
The budding automaker regularly brings in Chinese VIPs to tour its Silicon Valley offices.
"The talent is based here," said Andrew Hussey, a spokesman for Byton. The company plans to launch its first production model this year in China and aims for US sales. UU Starting next year with an electric SUV.
Venture capital investment in Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers almost doubled last year to $ 6.4 billion, according to Pitchbook, even as China cracked down on aggressive mergers and acquisitions in sectors such as real estate and retail. Casinos Many Tesla contenders have chosen to seek alliances with Musk's local rivals.
Eberhard is the best example of prestigious hiring by an EV startup based in China, even if its former employer, SF Motors, does not look very much like a Chinese startup. His office in Santa Clara has all the Silicon Valley ornaments: a ping-pong table, attended lunches, a gym.
Eberhard, expelled from Tesla by Musk in 2007, did not realize that a Chinese billionaire was enrolling him when he sold another new company, InEVit Inc., to SF Motors in 2017 for an undisclosed price. The parent company of SF Motors is Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co., a car manufacturer based in China and its parts. SF Motors is run by the millennial son of Sokon's president, Zhang Xinghai.
"If you can sell a car in China with enough western brightness, you can get 30 percent more for the same car," said Eberhard, who drove one of his Tesla Roadsters to lunch at Buck & # 39; s, a well-known diner from Silicon Valley as a meeting place for technology moguls. "What does it take to get that western shine? Open a Silicon Valley company, hire Westerners."
Tesla's poaching talent is becoming easier as Musk's company swelled (on Twitter he tweeted that "the Tesla team" included 45,000 people) and tends to get rid of top executives and other workers regularly . Lucid Motors Inc., partially endorsed by Beijing-based Tsing Capital, hired Tesla's former vice president of vehicle engineering, Peter Rawlinson, as technology director; moved to larger facilities just across the bay from the Tesla factory; and raised $ 1 billion from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
Tesla's press offices for China and North America did not respond to requests for comments.
XPeng Motors Technology Ltd., a Guangzhou-based EV manufacturer that received more than $ 900 million last year, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Foxconn Technology Group and IDG Capital, established a Mountain View office in the neighborhood of Google. President He Xiaopeng has four Teslas, and former Tesla employees who work there include Gu Junli, an expert in machine learning.
NIO Inc., based in Shanghai, doubled the size of its office in San Jose after selling shares in an initial public offering in the United States last year. The company, which said it has delivered more than 11,000 cars to customers, has a market valuation of around $ 7 billion. LinkedIn shows more than 100 experienced employees at Tesla. The company declined to comment on any Tesla connection.
Most Chinese EV players are technology companies and have an advantage not because of the automotive manufacturing experience, but to understand the behavior of the Chinese consumer, said Nannan Kou, China's head of research for BloombergNEF.
"Their competitive advantage is in China," he said. "The US market for them is the icing on the cake."
However, that advantage on the field of play may be affected in the coming years. The Tesla factory in Shanghai could start production of the Model 3 by the end of the year, Musk said. Volkswagen AG is also building a plant to do EV with a local partner, and the Chinese government is beginning to reduce the subsidies that have long supported consumer purchases of EVs.
"The Silicon Valley offices and the ex-Tesla contracts are not as effective as they have been," Kou said. "Popular models, great features, effective production capacity and solid sales revenue are the keys now."
If aspiring musk from China can find a way to sell in the United States is another open question. There will be regulatory, labor and supply chain challenges, not to mention the current tensions of the trade war. The Office of the United States Trade Representative cited the connections of the Chinese Communist Party of real estate billionaire Hui Ka Yan in a November report on concerns over China's intellectual property practices after one of its subsidiaries agreed to invest $ 2 thousand millions in Faraday.
Hui's Evergrande did not respond to requests for comment.
In addition, Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers have to defend themselves against any reciprocal hunting of talent in China by foreign car manufacturers looking to sell there. At Tesla's innovative construction in Shanghai, Musk said a Chinese engineer hired today could eventually become CEO.
For now, however, EV startups in China can stick to their strategy of importing some Tesla brightness, said Eberhard, whose Roadster sports a MRTESLA badge. "China is a big enough place and has enough cash so they can make lots of bets."