After boasting that China could become Tesla’s largest market, Elon Musk backpedaled his enthusiasm when his ambitious plans hit a speed bump. Concerns over range anxiety have proven difficult to overcome, and according to Bloomberg this has Tesla reevaluating its sales strategy in China.
Charging and range anxiety are the two biggest concerns for Chinese consumers, and Tesla’s own sales staff apparently wasn’t helping matters, telling could-be buyers that it’s difficult to find a place to plug in. While there is some truth to the matter as some Tesla owners have found out, the electric automaker is working to install new Supercharger stations, as well as destination chargers to give buyers more options when it comes to long road trips.
Musk and Tesla will have some help too. The Chinese government on almost every level is pressing for more “new energy” cars, i.e. plug-in vehicles to help improve the rapidly deteriorating air quality around some of its largest cities. Other automakers, like the Daimler-BYD joint venture called Denza, are pushing out fast-charging networks of their own.
But that isn’t the only issue facing Tesla’s ambitions in China. Many wealthy Chinese people prefer to be chauffeured around, rather than drive, and Tesla’s back seats really aren’t the greatest. The new executive seat options is supposed to help improve the feel of sitting in the back of a Tesla, but the rumored long-wheelbase Model S could really kick start sales in China. Luxury automakers like Mercedes and BMW regularly build long-wheelbase versions of their large sedans just to cater to the Chinese market, and maybe it’s time Tesla revisits this idea. Tesla is also working to better integrate native Chinese apps like Baidu, which offers a map service on par with Google Maps, appealing the appeal of the Model S compared to competitors who have had a longer foothold on the mainland.
There’s no doubt in my mind that China will become an important part of Tesla’s portfolio, but I doubt the electric automaker will be opening factories in the People’s Republic as soon as Elon says. What say you?