A 25-percent import tariff can certainly make an automaker take notice (to wit: Toyota). In Tesla's case, that means getting production capabilities on the ground in China as soon as possible. According to Bloomberg News, that could mean 2017. Or maybe not.
Bloomberg, citing comments by Tesla chief Elon Musk made at Beijing's Geekpark Conference earlier this week, said the California-based maker of the Model S electric sedan may start making vehicles in China as soon as 2017 or 2018. Musk also envisions a substantial charging network throughout cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and obviously thinks the current Chinese resistance to plug-in vehicles will pass. The California-based automaker delivered its first nine Model S EVs in China this week.
Of course, Musk has a way with hyperbole, and when contacted by AutoblogGreen, a company representative toned down such a timeframe.
"We hope that local production in China is in Tesla's future so that we can manufacture our vehicles where they are sold," wrote Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean in an e-mail to AutoblogGreen. "We aren't likely to produce cars in China within the next three to four years, however, nor are we currently in any serious discussions to do so."
By making cars in China, Tesla, which opened a showroom in Beijing late last year, would avoid the 25 percent import tax China enforces on foreign-made vehicles. As it is, Tesla is pricing the 85-kilowatt hour version of the Model S at about $118,000 in China. That's about $47,000 higher than the US base price, but it's actually kind of "aggressive." Musk has said Tesla will sell as many as 5,000 vehicles in China this year, while Tesla executives have said they expect China to account for a third of Tesla's global sales this year and as much as half next year. Tesla sold about 22,300 vehicles in the US last year.
Tesla has also started leasing the Model S in Switzerland for roughly $750 a month. Read more details in the press release below.