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Tesla’s China factory plans see progress as gov’t lifts ownership restrictions

Tesla’s plans of establishing a China factory recently made significant progress, after the Asian country’s state planner announced that it is lifting ownership restrictions for foreign-owned facilities. According to the local agency that oversees industries on Tuesday, the ownership limitations for companies like Tesla will be lifting as soon as this year.

With the promise of lighter tariffs and sole ownership of its China factory, Tesla now stands to operate in the Asian country without a handicap, with its vehicles likely giving local electric car manufacturers some competition, according to a Bloomberg report. In a statement to the publication, Dan Zhuang, an analyst at Rhb Osk Securities Hong Kong Ltd., noted that Tesla’s China factory would likely affect the country’s electric car market overall, with leading local companies such as BYD set to feel some pressure.

“The pace of the open-up is much faster than the market had thought. If Tesla produces from China, BYD may face the pressure to lower price and thus a weaker margin,” Zhuang said.

The announcement comes a week after President Xi Jinping declared in a business conference that the country would be cutting import taxes for vehicles that are brought over from abroad. According to the president, Beijing will aim to “significantly” lower its tariffs on auto imports and ease restrictions imposed on foreign companies.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who previously addressed the rather unfair system for American automakers in the country on Twitter, welcomed Xi’s announcement last week, stating that it was a “very important action” by China. According to Musk, such a decision will “benefit all countries.”

China’s decision to lift ownership restrictions stand to benefit the American electric car maker. Tesla, after all, has been engaged in discussions with the Shanghai municipal government for quite some time. During Tesla’s third-quarter earnings call last year, Musk stated that the local facility would serve as a means for the company to produce vehicles that would be sold to the local market.

According to Musk, the planned Shanghai facility will not be manufacturing the company’s flagship vehicles — the Model S and the Model X. Instead, it would likely produce its lower-priced vehicles — the Model Y — and some of the Model 3.

“[Tesla] won’t be making Model S and Model X, but we’ll be making probably Model 3, probably Model Y primarily for the local Chinese market and it’s really the only way to make the cars affordable in China,” Musk said.

Earlier this year, reports emerged stating that discussions between Tesla and Shanghai officials have soured due to disagreements about the ownership of the planned facility. According to individuals who claimed to be privy to Tesla and the government’s dealings, Tesla wants to hold sole proprietorship of the factory, but Chinese regulators were reportedly firm on the idea that foreign automakers must engage in a joint venture with a local company.

Not long after these reports emerged, however, Shanghai officials stated that the discussions between the Elon Musk-led company and the municipal government have been progressing well. In an emailed statement to Reuters, Shanghai officials noted that both the government and the electric car company maintain a “shared goal” to build and operate the factory.

Tesla’s China factory plans see progress as gov’t lifts ownership restrictions
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