Tesla production expert sent to US to increase output



The production specialist behind Tesla’s Shanghai gigafactory may help the firm to capitalise on US electric car grants.

Tesla has drafted in a top executive to bolster efforts to ramp up production at its Texas gigafactory, a new report has claimed.

Citing insider sources, Bloomberg reported that Tom Zhu – Tesla’s chief executive for China – travelled to Austin, Texas with a team of engineers to oversee the plant’s development.

Zhu, who joined Tesla in 2014, previously oversaw the Shanghai gigafactory project. More than 100,000 cars built at Shanghai were shipped in November alone. Texas, meanwhile, built only 10,000 Model Ys between April and September 2022.

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The US plant is earmarked to produce the Cybertruck from next year.

Attempts to increase the production rate at Texas are likely to be motivated by the US’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed off by US president Joe Biden in August.

It offers buyers a $7500 (AUD$11,000) tax rebate on electric or plug-in hybrid cars compliant with batteries containing materials mined or refined in the US and there is an additional tax credit for battery manufacturers.

Tesla is considering a lithium refinery in Louisiana or Texas – a venture that CEO Elon Musk previously said was a “licence to print money”.

He added on the firm’s third-quarter earnings call that he expects the company’s vehicles to fully satisfy the requirements.

CFO Zachary Kirkhorn added the legislation was “a significant boost towards accelerating our mission”.

The IRA is also widely speculated to be the reason for the Tesla Semi’s revival. It faded into obscurity after its 2017 reveal, but suddenly ramped up to launch after the IRA was signed off. It contributes tax credits of up to $40,000 (AUD$59,000) for electric commercial vehicles weighing more than 14,000lb (6350kg). The first Semis were delivered to PepsiCo on 2 December.

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