Tesla Motors could be building a new automotive plant in China without a domestic joint venture if the Ministry of Commerce alters a long-standing manufacturing rule. Bloomberg reported early this week on this possible shift in the policy by the China Ministry, where the department commented that it will “actively implement the opening up of the new-energy manufacturing sector to foreigners, together with other departments under the direction of the State Council.”
This joint-venture change is huge news as Tesla and many other automotive companies have been courting China’s Ministry on rule changes that would facilitate production of electric cars in the country. Speculation on this updated policy looks for local governments to create more free-trade zones for manufacturers to produce cars without a traditional joint-venture arrangement with a state-owned entity.
The news comes at an exciting time as China announced last week their intentions to phase-out fossil fuel vehicles at some point and Tesla’s interest in a new factory in China. The proposed battery plant is to be located near Shanghai and Musk said in June that the company was working with the Shanghai government to explore local production.
China has been reforming this protectionist, joint-venture rule since last year when 100 percent-owned, foreign companies began manufacturing motorcycle and batteries in July 2016.
A couple of huge questions remain with this new development: 1) Will it include all auto manufacturers and 2) how easy will it be to manufacture in these free-trade zones? The cynic in me relents as domestic car manufacturing translates to a large supply chain for Chinese companies and strong economic growth to follow.
Also, a shift in this policy could be an advantage for Tesla, as GM and VW already announced earlier this year their intention to produce electric cars with state-owned companies. GM announced the Velite 5 hybrid would be produced by state-owned Shanghai Automotive Industries.
The advantage for Tesla is the ability to move at their speed, and this may be a small advantage compared to legacy automakers and their current manufacturing relationships in China.
Companies have criticized the joint-venture process for years now and Bloomberg reports that this policy could be in place by 2018.
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