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A look at a Tesla Model 3 in Qinghai. Image courtesy of Tesla/Tesla Greater China.


Tesla China Sets Sales Record In November

Tesla sold a record number of cars produced at its factory in Shanghai, China, last month, but there may be trouble ahead.

This appears to be a good news, bad news story. Tesla sold more electric cars made at its factory in Shanghai, China, in November than in any previous month — 100,291 to be exact. CnEVPost says that is up 90 percent from the 52,859 vehicles sold in November of last year and up 40 percent from the 71,704 vehicles sold in October. Through the end of November, Tesla has sold 655,069 vehicles manufactured in China this year — 63 percent more than the 402,231 sold in the same period last year.

Those numbers need some explanation, however. Not every car produced in Shanghai is sold to a customer in China. In fact, CnEVPost says Tesla’s pattern is to produce cars for export in the first half of each quarter, and cars for local delivery in the second half. For reference, of the 71,704 vehicles sold by Tesla Shanghai in October, 54,504 were exported and 17,200 vehicles were delivered to local consumers.

Certain Chinese EV incentives are set to expire at the end of this year. The Tesla China website says cars ordered now are expected to be delivered before the end of the year, which means customers can still expect to order a new Tesla and benefit from the existing incentives as well.

Rumored Tesla Shanghai Production Cut Coming

Tesla China

Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory, courtesy of Tesla.

Despite all the good news about record sales, Reuters is reporting that sources have told Bloomberg Tesla plans to cut Model Y production at it Shanghai factory by 20% in December. Tesla, of course, did not respond to a request for comment on the planned cut in production and Reuters says it was unable to immediately determine the reason for reduction. Update: Tesla has called these rumors “untrue,” according to Reuters.

Reportedly, inventory levels at the Shanghai factory rose significantly after Tesla completed an upgrade of the manufacturing facilities last summer, with EV inventory increasing at its fastest pace ever in October.

Tesla has recently been cutting prices in China in an effort to boost sales. In November, it announced that customers who purchase a Model 3 and Model Y produced by December 31 and who also choose to insure their cars with a Tesla insurance partner will receive a discount of up to RMB 8,000 ($1,150) on the final payment price of their cars. New price incentives are also available to US customers.

CnEVPost reports that on November 22, local tech media outlet Huxiu cited unnamed sources as saying that the two promotions in China did not increase sales as much as expected and that the company would launch new “price cuts” before the end of the year. Sina Tech, another Chinese news source, later cited Tesla’s response as saying the report was false but provided no further details.

Bumps In The Road Ahead

There is a lot of uncertainty in China today as protests over Covid restrictions are roiling the political landscape while president for life Xi Jinping seems intent on cementing his role as the most authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong. To make matters worse, China’s economic growth is slowing, which may further disrupt political stability in China. All of those factors could disrupt Tesla’s carefully laid plans to become a dominant seller of electric cars in China.

Tesla reportedly is preparing an update for the now five-year-old Model 3 sedan that should go into production next year and is expecting a significant bump in its global manufacturing capacity as new factories in Texas and Germany ramp up production.

Tesla is now longer the quirky upstart it once was. It is now a mainstream automaker and facing increasing competition from its peers. The big question now is whether Tesla can make the transition from a typical “run around and break things” Silicon Valley startup to a mature company that has to rely on more than disruption of the status quo to survive.

It is strange to think of Tesla, the radical car company of ten years ago, going mainstream, but that is what happens when success comes knocking. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out as the company’s founder continues to get distracted by the next new shiny object. Keep your seatbelts securely fastened.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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