Chinese Are Excited About Tesla's Model S Launch In April

It Helps That CEO Elon Musk Has Rock Star Status in China

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Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S

Electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors has made a big splash in China, grabbing the attention of Chinese media and car buyers and luring investors to companies that make EVs and EV components.

China's media have closely watched Tesla's progress in the United States and its efforts to sell the Model S electric sedan here.

Some Chinese journalists question whether Tesla can sustain its growth. But most admire the company's innovative business model -- selling the Model S through its own stores. And CEO Elon Musk drew kudos after his company declared a profit last year.

In fact, Mr. Musk enjoys the kind of stardom in China's business media that until recently was reserved for the likes of Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Inc.

"Musk, Jobs, who is more remarkable?" read the headline of a recent article in IT Time, a weekly Guangzhou magazine. The article cast its vote for Mr. Musk.

The excitement is even more remarkable when considering the cost of the Model S, which is no bargain. The car will carry a starting price of 734,000 yuan ($118,000); because it's an import, it will not qualify for government EV subsidies that range up to 57,000 yuan per vehicle.

But never mind that. Wealthy Chinese consumers, especially young ones, love luxury goods that display their social status. And a pricey Model S is exactly what they want.

Tesla began taking orders in China at the end of last year. A young man in east China's Zhejiang province couldn't stand the delay, so he had a Model S shipped to him from Tesla's store in Hong Kong.

The first Model S cars are due in mainland China next month. Orders are piling up. If a buyer orders now, he will have to wait until year end to get the car, according to Tesla's store in Beijing.

The excitement over Tesla has spilled into China's investment community. In recent months, fund managers snapped up stocks of listed domestic EV makers and suppliers, pushing up the companies' share prices more than 30% this year.

According to media reports, Tesla is negotiating with State Grid Corp. of China, the country's largest power grid operator, to set up charging facilities.

Tesla opened its first China store in November 2013 in Beijing. It plans to open sales outlets in Shanghai and other major Chinese cities this year. As Tesla plans to open stores in more cities, the excitement is sure to continue. Not bad for an automaker that has yet to deliver a single car in China.

--Automotive News China--

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