Shanghai will host Tesla’s first car plant outside the US, official says

The Chinese ‘Gigafactory’ will produce both automobiles and batteries, a top company official said

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 3:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:22pm

Tesla’s next Gigafactory, a combination car and battery-making plant, will be built near Shanghai, a top official said during the company’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday in northern California. It will be Tesla’s first car plant outside the United States.

“The cars we’ll be building in that factory will be incredible,” said Robin Ren, Tesla’s worldwide head of sales, before declining to offer any more details because the official announcement is still a few weeks away. Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared to surprise Ren when he asked him to discuss the news.

Musk then added that he still saw a future with 10 to 12 Gigafactories. At present, Tesla makes cars south of San Francisco in Fremont and has its lone Tesla Gigafactory, which makes only batteries, outside Reno, Nevada.

He also hinted at a third: “Europe maybe by the end of the year; we just need to figure out where to put it.”

A restrained Musk told shareholders that delays on the company’s critical Model 3 sedan were both regrettable but explainable.

“We’re doing everything we can to make our product as good and as fast as possible,” said Musk, who is trying to increase Model 3 production from 3,500 a week to a targeted 5,000 a week in the next month. “This is going to sound really cheesy, but we build our cars with love. We really care.”

Musk took the stage at the Computer History Museum in nearby Mountain View, not far from Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto. His restraint contrasted with contentious comments made recently on Twitter in which he excoriated the media for what he considers biased reporting on Tesla.

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And he received heat for the company’s last earnings call with analysts in which he blasted some for “boring” questions.

In addition to promising that Model 3 production targets would soon be met, Musk and a few of his top lieutenants shared a smattering of news that sheds light on some of the company’s biggest plans.

Tesla’s next vehicle, the Model Y crossover, should be available to consumers around 2020, along with the Tesla Semi truck and the revamped Roadster sports car, Musk said.

“The Roadster will have a SpaceX option package,” Musk said to laughter, though it’s unclear if he was being serious. “It’s a crazy car. It’s important for us to show that an electric vehicle can outperform a gas car in every way. That will get rid of the halo effect of gasoline cars, and that’s powerful for the public.”

Besides leading Tesla, Musk is also CEO of Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, the rocket maker based in Hawthorne, California.

Musk also made a few comments about Autopilot, which has been in the news after recent Tesla crashes. “We’ll have a new version of Autopilot rolling out next week, which will have significant improvements,” Musk said. “Its reliability and capability will increase exponentially over the next six to 12 months.”

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Also on the vehicular front, Musk said Tesla would begin offering Model 3 test drives in some of its store locations by the end of the month. Currently, the 400,000 reservation holders for the car have had to order without the ability to take one for a spin first.

Also, Tesla will not be building a motorcycle. Musk said he used to ride, but was almost killed by a truck “so we’re not going to do motorcycles”.

Musk also said that Tesla would start opening its own body shops. “In some locations, we may even be able to offer same day body repair,” he said.