Thursday, January 16, 2014, 10:42
Tesla coming to China fully loaded with optimism
By Li Fangfang in Detroit

Tesla Motors will soon begin selling its luxury Model S in China at a "very competitive price" to lure Chinese customers, according to a top executive with the US electric carmaker.

"We are now finalizing the price of the Model S in China. In the weeks to come, the first batch of cars will be shipped, after we have received approval from the Chinese government to import the vehicles," said Jerome Guillen, vice-president for sales and service at Tesla.

He told China Daily at the ongoing North America International Auto Show in Detroit that he has read about the of BMWs being sold in China with a large differential in pricing between there and the United States.

But "if you compare Tesla's prices in the two countries, the gap will be very small. The only difference is in duties and sales tax," he said.

The Model S has been sold in the US for anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000.

He said Tesla will try to make the cars affordable for more Chinese buyers.

"We see it as a mission to show our appreciation and respect for the China market," Guillen said. "Thus, we are making the pricing transparent and fair."

He added that Tesla is already using components made in China. "We expect more suppliers from China.

"It's also a way that we hope the Chinese government will impose lower duty for the partly 'localized' Tesla cars," he added.

Because China's government now only provides subsidies to homegrown electric cars, Guillen said Tesla hopes for such non-financial support as free license plate applications in big cities to make the car more attractive to potential owners.

The US brand opened its first showroom in Beijing in November, where it initiated pre-orders.

The company earlier reported that its planned allotment of 100 units for China was quickly oversubscribed.

"We will soon open a service center in Beijing, in the Golden Port Circuit near the airport," Guillen said. "We are also looking for sites in Shanghai, Shenzhen and other cities, trying to open them as possible showrooms."

He said the company will hold a test-drive event for the Model S soon to "let local consumers experience a high-tech electric car".

Although due to unveil 2013 sales figures in mid-February, Guillen disclosed Tesla sold more than 25,000 cars last year.

"Our goal is to double the figure in 2014, with high expectations from China," he said.

Statistics show that in California in the first half of last year, Tesla far outsold other luxury brands, including Porsche, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.

Tesla can produce 600 cars per week, according to Guillen. But he said, "We are aggressively increasing the capacity to support market demand, especially as we start sales in China soon."