After its strong performance on Monday, Tesla shares (NASDAQ:TSLA) are exhibiting some volatility amid reports that its electric car sales in China experienced a steep 70% drop last month. The figures, which were reportedly provided to Reuters by an official from the China Passenger Car Association, alleged that Tesla only sold 211 vehicles in the entire country during October.
A Tesla spokesperson has issued a response to the publication’s report, stating that the quoted figures were inaccurate. The spokesperson further clarified that while the company does not disclose regional or monthly sales figures, the alleged 70% drop in October’s electric car sales was “off by a significant margin.”
“This is wildly inaccurate. While we do not disclose regional or monthly sales numbers, these figures are off by a significant margin,” the spokesperson said.
Due to the ongoing trade war between the United States and the Asian country, imported vehicles such as Tesla’s Model S and Model X are given a steep 40% tariff. This gives the cars a distinct disadvantage against local competitors, which are far more affordable. This was pointed out by Tesla in its third quarter vehicle delivery and production report, where the company noted that the Model S and X’s figures remain stable despite “headwinds (that) we have been facing from the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China.”
In an announcement earlier this month, Tesla noted that it would be cutting the prices of the Model S and Model X in China by 12-26% despite the 40% tariffs still being in effect. Even the prices of the Model 3 Performance and the Long Range Model 3 AWD, which are currently available for ordering among Chinese reservation holders, were adjusted. Explaining its strategy, Tesla noted that it would be “absorbing a significant part of the tariff to help make our cars more affordable for customers in China.”
Despite the ongoing trade war between the US and China, Tesla commands a strong following among consumers in the country. Prior to the 40% tariffs taking effect earlier this year, for example, China’s Customs Tariff Commission under China’s cabinet decided to cut import duties from 20-25% to just 15%. Tesla responded promptly to the country’s announcement then, reducing the prices of its electric cars. The reaction from consumers was immediate, resulting in a Tesla store in Shanghai clearing out its entire Model X 75D inventory in 24 hours. The reception to the Model 3, which was exhibited in multiple key Chinese cities this month, has been very encouraging as well.
Tesla’s decision to absorb a part of the 40% tariffs on its vehicles could ultimately prove to be a strategic decision that could address a short-term challenge facing its operations in the country. The company, after all, has noted that it is accelerating the construction of Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai, which would be capable of manufacturing both batteries and electric vehicles. Tesla notes that the Model 3 and Model Y would be produced in the Shanghai site, with the cars being sold to the local market. With such a system in place, Tesla’s vehicles would be able to compete against locally-made electric cars on even ground.
Tesla shares, which finished Monday’s trading up 6.2%, were down 2.22% as of writing, trading at $338.33 per share.
Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.