Tesla will sell its electric vehicles in China

Tesla Motors Inc hopes to launch a nationwide charging and service network for its electric vehicles by as early as 2015, CEO Elon Musk said in Beijing on Monday.

Tesla will build solar-powered charging stations in Beijing and Shanghai this year and will add more charging stations across the country in the coming years, Musk said during his first public appearance in China.

The 42-year-old billionaire did not reveal who his Chinese partners will be in building the stations. But China Daily reported last week, citing a company insider, that Tesla may join up with State-owned oil giant Sinopec Group for the charging network project in the country.

Musk suggested that the charging and service networks will start in big cities where demand for electric cars is greater.

“We will make a big investment in China to make sure every buyer has a great experience,” he said. Zhou Hongyi, founder of Beijing-based Internet security company Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd, said electric cars may have a big market share in China.

But he also pointed out Tesla’s solar-powered charging station project may not work well in some Chinese cities because days of bad air quality could hinder the process.

China, the world’s largest car market, has a strong appetite for electric-powered vehicles because of surging gas prices and concerns over air pollution.

Sales of such vehicles surged by 13.9 percent year-on-year in 2013 to 21.98 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Musk said Tesla plans to offer more electric cars with lower prices. The company also will double its production this year and may double the amount again in 2015 in order to keep up with the demand.

The ultimate goal for Tesla is to build electric automobiles that are affordable for all, the South Africa-born Musk said, adding that his company’s goal for direct sales and services in China is for consumers to have a “positive purchase experience”.

The company’s S model, equipped with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery, will be priced at 734,000 yuan ($118,000), about $47,000 more than its sticker price in the US. Freight, tariffs and value-added tax are behind the difference, said the company.

“We have pressure from investors who are in favor of setting a higher price in China,” said Musk. But he added: “The important thing for Tesla is transparent pricing. We will not charge unreasonable prices to our customers.”

It has never been the goal of Tesla to build sports cars for the rich, according to Musk. Asked what score he would give his company’s latest Tesla model, the technology magnate paused and gave 80 points out of 100.

“I am a tough grader,” said Musk. “The biggest challenge is how to make the car really great and make it affordable.”