Just recently, Tesla updated its Model 3 configurator in China to include the locally-produced Long Range RWD and Dual Motor Performance. With this, Tesla has begun an initiative to transition its entire Model 3 sales in China to vehicles that are produced locally. Such a strategy could pay off in spades for the electric car maker, especially considering an ongoing push from the Chinese government to boost the country’s automotive market.
China’s auto market has taken a beating this year, and the lockdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak did not help one bit. As noted by CNN Business in a recent report, China would have sold over 6 million cars by now on an average year, but so far, the country has only sold 3.7 million this 2020. This drop was highlighted by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), which stated that Q1 auto sales have declined 42% year-over-year.
A huge culprit for this, of course, is the coronavirus outbreak. The country saw a massive 79% drop in February, primarily because of multiple cities going on mandatory lockdowns due to the pandemic. The decline in the local automotive sector was felt by China as a whole, as the industry plays a crucial role in the country’s economy. Over 40 million people rely on the car market for jobs, and the automotive segment generates about 10% of China’s manufacturing output.
Amidst these challenges, the CAAM emphasized in a statement on Friday that while automakers restart production, the industry’s “primary issue” and “urgent need” is to boost raw vehicle sales. The country aims to accomplish this in several ways. Beijing, for example, announced last month that it would extend subsidies and tax breaks for new energy vehicles. At least a dozen provinces have also ramped up their cash subsidies for auto purchases, with some offering as much as $1,400 per car.
If Tesla can take advantage of this momentum, the electric car maker’s China division would have the potential to significantly soften the blow that the company will be experiencing this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tesla’s American plants like the Fremont factory and Gigafactory New York have been temporarily shut down, after all, but Gigafactory Shanghai, which produces the Made-in-China Model 3, is already back to full operations. Even more impressive is the fact that Giga Shanghai is actually hitting new milestones, with the facility recently reaching a production rate of 3,000 vehicles per week.
China’s auto market is a highly competitive arena, and only carmakers that are aggressive enough thrive. Fortunately, Tesla China seems to be up to the task, pricing the new Model 3 Long Range RWD variant at about $48,000. The Model 3 Standard Range Plus has also made quite an impact since starting consumer deliveries earlier this year. Tesla China’s sales rose to 10,160 cars in March thanks to the locally-made Model 3 SR Plus, up from the 3,900 units that were sold in February.
While the year will be challenging for China’s auto market, it may be far too early to discount the country’s chances this year just yet. As noted by the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), the need to drive children to and from school is a significant motivator for consumers to purchase cars. Fortunately, schools are expected to reopen in the country this spring and summer. Apart from this, CPCA Secretary General Cui Dongshu also mentioned that the country’s Labor Day holiday in May will last longer than it has been in over a decade. This presents an opportunity for more car sales, as potential buyers may have a desire to travel over the upcoming long holiday. Both of these opportunities are ripe for the picking for Tesla, provided that the electric car maker is up for the challenge.