In a truly bizarre situation, media outlet Pingwest claims that Tesla has decided to replace Elon Musk as CEO with Tom Zhu, president of Tesla China, right after losing a lawsuit over fake news against Tesla.

Pingwest is a Chinese tech publication with a decent size following on social media and dozens of employees, according to LinkedIn.

Last year, the publication published a damning article on Tesla titled “Giga-Sweatshop Meets Corporate Overlords: an Exclusive Look Into How Tesla China Runs its Shanghai Gigafactory 3.”

The article includes wide-ranging claims of quality problems at Tesla’s factory as well as poor working conditions and even questionable sales tactics.

Most of the claims are based on single unnamed sources that Pingwest says work at Tesla or Tesla suppliers. The claims range from simply serving bad food to workers to more serious offenses, like knowingly using defective parts.

In an extraordinary move, Tesla decided to sue the publication over the article a month after it came out.

Last week, more than a year later, Tesla won the case against Pingwest in front of the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court. The publication was reportedly ordered by the court to remove the article, issue a retraction admitting the article wasn’t accurate, and even pay a small retribution equivalent to $14,000 USD.

Now a week after basically being forced to admit posting fake news about Tesla by the court, Pingwest now reports what would be major news about Tesla if true: Tesla replacing Elon Musk as global CEO with Tom Zhu, president of Tesla China, responsible for Tesla’s operations in Asia-Pacific.

Electrek’s Take

This is such a strange situation. There have been talks among Tesla investors about replacing Musk as CEO lately, due to his lack of focus on Tesla since his acquisition of Twitter.

In the past, Musk himself has referenced a scenario where he would like to step down as CEO of Tesla but remain at the company as “product architect,” letting someone take over the daily leadership of the automaker.

And while the name Tom Zhu doesn’t come up often as possible replacement, he would certainly be a contender considering Tesla’s incredible success in China under his leadership, with Musk praising him directly on a few occasions.

Zhu oversaw the development of Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai, which has become the automaker’s biggest manufacturing success.

However, the context in which this news is coming out of Pingwest a week after being found guilty of fake news on Tesla by the court is just so bizarre that we can’t put much weight on the report.