Exclusive: Tesla hunts for design chief to build cars for China

BEIJING (Reuters) – Tesla Inc. is seeking a design director in China, part of efforts to open a “full-function” studio in Shanghai or Beijing and design electric cars to suit Chinese consumer tastes, with three people Case according to the knowledge of.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors wearing face masks will check China’s Tesla Model Y Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) on January 5, 2021 at the electric vehicle manufacturer’s showroom in Beijing, China. REUTERS / Tingshu Wang / File Photo

Sources said the American carmaker’s human resources managers, as well as several headhunters, have overtaken the industry in the last four months.

He is looking for “bi-cultural” candidates with 20 or more years of experience who are familiar with Chinese tastes and can bridge the gaps between China and the United States, he said.

Some candidates have been interviewed by Tesla’s global design chief Franz von Holzhausen, according to People, although it was unclear how many potential candidates were contacted by the company and employers.

All three sources spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity and confidential nature of the case.

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

According to consultancy LMC Automotive, China is the world’s largest auto market this year, as well as the largest 1.5 million vehicles for all electric vehicles with sales volumes. It is also Tesla’s No. 2 market after the United States.

Carmaker’s plans for the design studio have not been fully developed, and sources believe Tesla will have more clarity on the strained US-China relationship under a new US president before making a final decision on the move and all its details Will wait for

The talent discovery, which sources said was mainly focused within China, fit the comments of Tesla boss Elon Musk early last year.

“I think something would be super cool … to actually build a China Design and Engineering Center to design an original car in China for worldwide consumption.” I think it will be very exciting, ”he said at a media event in Shanghai.

Activity Stream

Musk’s interest in developing cars in China is part of a broader push by Tesla to increase the company’s global sales volume ahead of the 500,000-vehicle-a-year mark, which was just 450 short of hitting in 2020 .

All three sources said Tesla’s search for a China studio director began around September, and recently began activity by December when many headhunters were using LinkedIn and other mediums.

A source, who has information about Tesla’s major activities in China, said that once a design director is hired, Tesla will recruit a director’s team, which will likely be 20-strong and will include designers Along with this, there will be modellers who will help in designing turn in clay models.

All sources said the planned center is intended to be a comprehensive design livery, one of which describes it as a “full-function studio”, which will help conceptualize not only the design of a car, but the final shape. Will also come with – digital three dimensional data – a model.

The data could then be assigned to Tesla’s vehicle engineers, who are mostly based in Northern California.

Sources said Tesla’s China studio would likely have researched Chinese consumer tastes, as well as work on cars expected to be produced at Tesla’s vehicle assembly plant in Shanghai, where engineers ensure specific components within Specifications are designed to do.

“They want to heavily bias vehicle design towards China; They have already done a lot, set up a major manufacturing site and sold a ton of EVs, but it seems Tesla is ready to keep its roots down, ”one of the sources said.

The push could hit a more independent Tesla China, which added the man, who has spent more than a decade in the country, working in design centers operated by global automakers, among other locations.

LMC said that Chinese consumers bought about 145,000 Tesla vehicles last year, which is a third of the company’s overall global versions.

$ 25,000 electric car

Two sources said a likely “China-specific” model was a low-cost volume generator such as a $ 25,000 electric car that Musk referred to at a battery day event in September, in which he said the market about Tesla There may be a target of bringing in three years.

Musk said Tesla was confident that it would be able to hit the market with “a very attractive $ 25,000 electric vehicle that is fully autonomous”.

At that price, according to two sources as well as industry experts, it was likely to be a compact car, smaller than Tesla’s Model 3, which would be affordable like some mainstream gasoline-fueled vehicles.

There are no big sellers of compact cars in the United States, where large, taller vehicles such as Ford’s F-150 pickup trucks and SUVs, as well as melt sedans, rule the road.

They have about 10% of the total vehicle market in the US. In contrast, according to consultancy LMC Automotive, 25% of sales in China, or about 5-6 million cars a year, are sold.

This is why the planned $ 25,000 car Musk has discussed will be better suited for the Chinese market, according to two sources and industry experts.

“A compact Tesla car will do well in China, as well as in the rest of Asia and Europe,” said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight. “This could potentially make a serious dent in Toyota’s sales of cars like the Corolla and Volkswagen Golf.”

Reporting by Norhiko Shirozu; Additional reporting by Paul Lennert in Detroit; Editing by Praveen Char


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