Tesla Might Export Cars From China to the US: Report

Elon Musk in front of a Tesla in Shanghai.
Elon Musk in front of a Tesla in Shanghai.

Reuters, the venerable and trusted Canadian news service, came out with a story late Friday morning that said that Tesla was thinking about exporting Teslas made in China to the U.S., because it is cheaper to make Teslas in China and demand there for Teslas apparently isn’t what it used to be. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who on Friday was in the middle of trying to fix Twitter, which is broken but not in the ways Elon thinks it is, nonetheless took a moment to declare Reuters’ story “false,” though Elon says a lot of things. It’s hard to figure out who to believe!

Quoth Reuters, which says all of this is a big maybe and that, for now, Tesla is merely “studying” the matter.

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Tesla has been studying whether parts made by its China-based suppliers are compliant with local regulations in North America, and if they are, could ship China-made Model Y and Model 3 cars for sale there as soon as next year, said [two people with knowledge of the planning told Reuters], who declined to be named as the matter is private.

That could also open a channel for exports to Canada, one of the people said.

[...]

Until recently, Tesla had been selling or shipping for export every vehicle it could produce in Shanghai, but inventory levels rose by their largest margin ever in October, according to data from brokerage CMBI.

In addition, factors including a cheaper yuan against the U.S. dollar, lower raw material prices in China and the rise in Tesla and new-car prices in the United States have combined to make exports from China to the United States potentially cost competitive, the people with knowledge of the plans said.

This all makes a certain amount of sense, though a complicating factor is that the China-made cars would not be eligible for federal tax credits in the U.S., with final assembly not in North America. That also may be less of an issue given that Teslas are priced like luxury cars, and Tesla buyers may not be the most cost-conscious, because if you’re buying a Tesla it’s probably because you really want a Tesla.

Elon’s denial, in any case, isn’t very believable because Reuters says that Tesla is only considering this, and, at any given moment, one can assume that Tesla managers are considering any number of things. It also isn’t very believable because Elon is highly focused on Twitter at the moment, and has been for days, and how plugged into Tesla is he really these days? Some of the few beneficiaries of Elon buying Twitter might be, in fact, people working at Tesla, since the weird annoying CEO now has some other necks to breathe down. Take all the time you need over there, Elon.

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