Tesla is looking for a Chief Designer to oversee its production of China-specific model releases in the country. The company’s efforts to open a Design Studio in China have been well-known, but the search for someone to help design cars that will be geared toward the Chinese market in specific continues.
Tesla has been manufacturing its electric vehicles in China since late 2019, while the first public deliveries began in January 2020. Since then, the automaker has seen overwhelming growth, which has been driven by incredible demand in China. The Tesla Model 3 is coming off of a highly-successful 2020 where it dominated sales figures for the full year. The Model Y also began production in late 2020 in Shanghai at its manufacturing plant, but the two cars are not all the company has in its plans.
Sources familiar with Tesla’s operation in China told Reuters that the company had started a full-fledged search to find the person who will design China-geared designs moving forward. According to the sources, recruiters and human resources representatives have worked diligently for four months to find a “bi-cultural” candidate with at least 20 years of experience. It will require a subjective sense of automotive design and familiarity with Chinese tastes. Even though Tesla has done relatively well in the Chinese market with its cars, the company plans to attack the market with designs that will speak to local citizens, which should drive sales figures through the roof.
A handful of potential candidates have been interviewed by Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s Chief Designer, but it is unknown how many people Tesla has talked to thus far.
In June 2020, Teslarati reported that Tesla was requesting that everyone, regardless of design experience or automotive craftsmanship, design an all-electric car that would appeal to China’s masses. “Even if you are not a car designer, you are welcome to submit. It’s more than just a car designed for you,” Tesla stated. “Please think of China in your Tesla design work.”
This request from the automaker followed a January 2020 Reuters report that revealed Tesla’s plans to design a “Chinese-style” vehicle.
Tesla is coming off its biggest year as a company, successfully delivering 499,650 of its over 509,000 produced cars. Q4 2020 was the company’s biggest quarter yet in terms of production and deliveries, as the company worked diligently to attain the 500,000 vehicle guidance it set for itself well before the COVID-19 pandemic slowed production lines.
The mission to increase the number of EVs on the road is far from over for Tesla. Now, it seems the automaker will begin adapting body styles to every market, looking to cater to each consumer base individually, instead of planning to release a universally-accepted vehicle that doesn’t require revisions. While Tesla’s cars have been successful in countries other than the U.S., there is still work to be done. With more cars on the road in China than any other country globally, focusing on China could ultimately lead to long-term success for Tesla and may lead to a more prolonged domination of the sector than originally anticipated. CEO Elon Musk has openly stated that other companies will catch up in terms of EV development, but Tesla would be able to remain in their lead due to manufacturing efficiencies.
Once a Chief Designer is hired, Tesla will begin to build a team that will turn renderings into clay models. This will eventually lead to new EV designs being built and a broader range of body styles for consumers to choose from.
It is unclear if the development of new Chinese designs has anything to do with the $25,000 vehicle that Tesla plans to manufacture in China soon. Tesla detailed this vehicle at the company’s Battery Day event in September, where Musk stated that a $25k, fully autonomous car would be available in 3-5 years.
Right now, China is swallowing up demand for small, compact cars, even if they are not electric. The Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf are two of the most popular, and Shanghai-based consultancy group Automotive Foresight says that a compact vehicle could be Tesla’s key to dominating the country and beyond. “A compact Tesla car would do well in China, as well as the rest of Asia and Europe,” Automotive Foresight’s Yale Zhang said. “It could potentially put a serious dent in sales of cars like Toyota’s Corolla and the Volkswagen Golf.”