Tesla’s China sales to catch up with US in few years: CEO

Beijing, Oct 23 (IANS) “In the long term, we will probably see equal or higher sales in China than in the US. That may take five or six years,” Elon Musk, CEO of electric automobile-maker Tesla Motors, said on Friday.

Sales in China in the first three quarters of 2015 reached 3,025 cars, with 791 sold in Q1, 882 in Q2 and 1,345 in Q3, respectively, Xinhua quoted Musk as saying at a press conference to unveil Tesla’s new autopilot system in Beijing.

Musk said the figures are good on a percentage growth basis, and he is very optimistic about Tesla’s future in China.

He said he wants to emphasise that Tesla is still a small company. “We get the press of an elephant, but are the size of a mouse,” he said.

The company is in talks with officials at the national and provincial levels about potential joint ventures in China, according to Musk.

In a previous interview, Musk said Tesla plans to localise production and engineering in China in three years.

“That timetable is still approximately correct. It’s my best guess,” he said on Friday when asked if there had been any change of plans.

Tesla has been increasing its retail outlets and super-charging networks in China, having already installed 84 super-chargers and 1,500 destination chargers after sales in the country reportedly fell below expectations last year.

Musk said Tesla is now in a “pretty good place”, even as traditional car makers such as BMW and Audi unveiled their own electric vehicle concepts in China.

“We are trying to put localised production in China. In the years to come, you will see some fairly significant partnership announcements,” Musk added.

China’s automobile sales rebounded in September mainly due to growth in passenger car and new energy vehicle sales.

Official data showed that electric and hybrid electric cars outperformed their peers in September, registering 210 and 220 percent year-on-year growth in output and sales, respectively.

Industry analysts said his choice of Beijing as the launch site for Tesla’s autopilot indicates Tesla’s determination to win over China, the world’s biggest auto market.

Apart from Tesla, Musk is also the CEO of private rocket firm SpaceX and chairman of solar company Solarcity.

He dismissed the possibility that all the companies under his helm would be restructured to follow Google’s recent reorganisation under conglomerate Alphabet Inc.

He said he enjoys getting involved in the “front line execution” of the companies, but said Tesla will add new brain power to its team, which will “make it easier” for him.

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