Electric cars in China: Tesla opens pre-orders for mainland customers

US electric car manufacturer plans to expand into Chinese market

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 2:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2015, 12:03pm

Tesla Motors will soon be bringing its unique brand of electric cars to China. 

“We are now starting formal pre-order bookings for Tesla Model S,” wrote Kingston Chang, general manger of Tesla China, in a post this week on his official Sina Weibo microblog. “The official Tesla Motors Weibo company page has gone online, [everyone] please pay attention to it.”

Chang, who could not be reached by phone for comment, also revealed that Tesla’s China branch would not be seeking assistance from any local dealers in the mainland market. All of the company’s electric cars, including its famous zero emission Model S sedan, would be sold to buyers directly, in keeping with the company’s tradition in other markets.

Tesla listed 250,000 yuan (HK$317,000) as the pre-order price for booking a Model S, but did not reveal further information on final prices, Chinese business site Caijing reported.

Atsuko Doi, head of communications for Tesla Motors Asia Pacific, told the South China Morning Post the company planned to open a store in Beijing in 2013, but details of the store and Tesla’s other plans for the China market were still confidential.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said the Chinese market was a “wild card” for the electric car maker, pointing to the country’s ever-growing wealthy middle class and the government’s recent push for clean energy, Caijing reported.

Despite this, Musk also said Tesla vehicles were expected to find a healthy audience in the mainland among luxury car enthusiasts, and cheaper vehicle models would likely be developed for Chinese buyers within three to four years.

Tesla has faced difficulties in the mainland market, especially with trademark problems. The company has had trouble using its name in China, since the formal “Tesla Motors” trademark was originally registered in 2006 by a Guangdong man named Zhan Baosheng. Zhan claims to be researching electric car production, and would only offer to sell the rights to the “Tesla Motors” name for HK$248 million.

Tesla is also examining legal ways to deal with trademark issues - as Zhan has not used the trademark since 2009, Want China News reported. Tesla’s Chinese website and Weibo page currently still display its English name and logo.

Entry into the mainland marks the next stage of Tesla’s plan to expand into China. In July, the company received over 300 orders for its Model S vehicle in Hong Kong - a figure that surpassed the current number of electric cars in the city.