The growth rate of electric vehicles in China has been decelerating, and the demand for battery power is lower than expected. CATL, a battery giant, is actively seeking new growth opportunities while pushing for cost reductions. A recent change in personnel is a clear indication of this effort.
On March 23, media outlet 36Kr reported that Tu Feng has recently stepped down from his position as co-president of CATL’s market department. Han Wei, president of CATL’s commercial division, has taken over Tu’s role. This transition has been the biggest personnel adjustment at CATL after vice chairman Huang Shilin and general manager Zhou Xin left their positions last year.
CATL’s business is divided into three segments: market, R&D and engineering manufacturing, and supply chain and operation. Each system has two or three co-presidents who report directly to Robin Zeng, chairman and general manager of CATL.
Before leaving his position, Tu served as co-president of CATL’s market department alongside Wu Kai. Wu also held the position of co-president and chief scientist of CATL’s R&D department. In recent years, Tu had frequently represented CATL at signing ceremonies with collaborating companies, including Huawei and Chery last year.
Tu’s departure from CATL was sudden, especially considering that he had represented the company at the Davos Forum in January and had given interviews on behalf of CATL. According to sources close to the personnel change, one possible reason for his departure was that the sales performance did not meet the company’s expectations. Another reason mentioned was that he was deemed less ambitious and not a good fit for the company culture. The decision was reportedly announced to Tu while he was still in-flight following a business trip.
Han Wei, who has taken over as co-president of CATL’s market department, has made several recent public appearances. Earlier this month, Han signed a contract with state-owned automaker BAIC Group on behalf of CATL at the strategic partnership ceremony of the two companies. The contract signifies that CATL will be deeply integrated into BAIC Group’s vehicle development and production process.
Before joining CATL, Han previously worked at Yutong, a Chinese manufacturer of commercial vehicles, with a particular focus on electric buses. At CATL, Han has been responsible for the commercial vehicle business and has signed contract agreements with several companies on behalf of CATL, including China Merchants Group, real estate logistics provider GLP, and China National Building Material Group.
Despite the rapid development of the electric vehicle market over the past two years, CATL’s market share in China has been declining. According to the China Automotive Battery Innovation Alliance, CATL installed 142.02 GWh of batteries in China in 2022, which was a 76% increase year-on-year. However, CATL’s market share dropped to 48.2%, down 3.9 percentage points from the previous year, and even fell to 44% in the first two months of this year. With the rapid growth of BYD’s vehicle sales, its battery subsidiary has become increasingly comparable to CATL.
As Han assumes his new role at CATL, the company’s focus for this year will be on expanding new businesses and strengthening ties with raw material suppliers and electric vehicle makers. CATL also plans to invest in commercial vehicle projects.
CATL’s market department consists of three divisions, including passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and energy storage. The passenger car division is currently the largest and holds a dominant strategic position in the market. However, the adoption rate of electric commercial vehicles on the market is currently low, indicating potential for growth.
In 2020, Robin Zeng, as a representative of the National Congress in China, submitted a proposal for “the electrification of heavy-duty trucks and construction vehicles.” At that time, CATL had already developed a battery-swapping solution for commercial vehicles.
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