Tesla CEO Elon Musk provided additional insight on the company’s plans to operate a factory in China during the company’s third-quarter Q&A call with analysts on Wednesday. When asked by Deutsche Bank’s Rod Lache on whether Tesla had plans to invest in building a factory in China and what the impact might be on the company’s capital expenditures, Musk noted that Tesla will not have any significant expenditures in China next year. “In respect to China, I wouldn’t expect any significant CapEx on China until 2019. It won’t be material in 2018.”
Musk’s response follows reports that Tesla has received approval from the Shanghai municipal government to operate a factory in the country’s free-trade zone. It would be the first time a foreign auto maker has been given the green light to own a factory within the country without having to partner with a local manufacturer. By having a manufacturing presence in China, Tesla will be able to lower production costs and streamline its supply chain in the world’s largest automotive market. It will also strengthens the company’s relationship with the Chinese government. However, it’s worth noting that vehicles produced in China as part of the arrangement would still incur a 25% import tariff.
“It’s sort of a rough target of start of production in about three years and it would be serving the China market and perhaps some other countries in the region and that’s really the intent” said Musk on Wednesday’s call and in regards to the 2019 timeline for Tesla’s proposed China factory. The serial tech entrepreneur also noted that the factory would not be making Model S and Model X vehicles. Rather, the focus will be on Model 3 and Tesla’s upcoming compact, crossover SUV – Model Y.
“[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, but it’s three years out, so.”
Though Musk’s response did not provide much detail on the role a China factory may play in the company’s overall growth strategy, his comment is nonetheless interesting as it’s the first time we’re gaining insight that Model Y might be produced overseas and aimed at the local market.
Tesla’s Model Y is expected to be an affordable, compact SUV that’s built on Model 3’s architecture and have substantial carryover in components. The vehicle is expected to have an even simpler build than Tesla’s Model 3 and use roughly 100m of wiring that incorporates Tesla’s “flex circuit”, versus 1500m in the Model 3 and 3000m in the Model S/X.