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Shanghai — US electric carmaker Tesla has halted plans to buy land to expand its Shanghai plant and make it a global export hub, people familiar with the matter said, due to uncertainty created by US-China tensions.
With 25% tariffs on imported Chinese electric vehicles imposed on top of existing levies under former president Donald Trump still in place, Tesla intends to limit the proportion of China output in its global production, two of the four people said.
Tesla had earlier considered expanding exports of its China-made entry-level Model 3 to more markets, including the US, sources told Reuters, a plan that had not previously been reported.
Tesla ships China-made Model 3s to Europe, where it is building a factory in Germany.
Tesla’s Shanghai factory is designed to make up to 500,000 cars a year, and is producing Model 3 and Model Y vehicles at a rate of 450,000 units a year.
In March, Tesla refrained from bidding on a plot of land across the road from the plant as it no longer aimed to boost China production capacity, at least for now, three of the people said, declining to be named as the discussions were private.
In a statement to Reuters, Tesla said its Shanghai factory was “developing as planned”.
The Shanghai city government, a supporter in Tesla’s establishment of a wholly-owned factory in China — the first and only foreign passenger car plant not required to form a joint venture — did not respond to a request for comment.
Tesla had never declared an intention to acquire the land, which is about half the size of the 80ha plot housing Tesla’s current facility and would enable the company to lift capacity by another 200,000 to 300,000 cars, said two of the people.
Tesla’s China sales are surging despite mounting regulatory pressure in the country after consumer disputes over product safety and scrutiny over how it handles data. It generated $3bn in revenue in China in the first three months of this year, more than tripling year-earlier sales and accounting for 30% of total revenue.
Led by mercurial CEO Elon Musk, Tesla is known for shifting gears on strategy, including in China. Construction documents posted on a government website in March show Tesla is revamping its plant in Shanghai to add capacity.
Tesla still has land, designed for production but now used for parking, at its Shanghai site. One of the people said Tesla could expand its capacity beyond 500,000 on its existing site. Another said Tesla may acquire more land for more car production lines in the future.
Separately, Tesla is building facilities to repair and reproduce components such as electric motors and battery cells and build EV chargers at its Shanghai plant.
The Shanghai government has been talking to several companies to sell the land for new-energy commercial vehicle production, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Tesla faces intensifying competition in China with domestic players such as Nio, which is considering making mass market products under another marque. Even before the trade war tariffs, relatively few China-made cars were shipped to the US.
General Motors sells its China-made Buick Envision in the US, paying the additional 25% tariff, though the SUV is not a high volume model.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.