Tesla breaks ground on its Gigafactory in China

Matthew DeBord  Business Insider

The first of the new electric models being developed by global automakers to hit the market, Nissan's Sylphy Zero Emission, began rolling off a production line in southern China in August.

"Affordable cars must be made on same continent as customers", Musk wrote in another Twitter post.

Tesla plans to keep building the higher-end versions of the Model 3 at its plant in Fremont, California, and to make more affordable versions in China for that market and other parts of Asia. The China gigafactory could significantly reduce costs - from transpacific transit and tariffs - for Tesla in a booming local market for electric cars. With these latest filings, Tesla had also broken the 200k barrier with its Model 3 VIN registrations - a notable milestone for a vehicle whose production was beset by challenges on its first year.

In China, the billionaire-entrepreneur faces a vehicle market that probably shrank a year ago for the first time in at least two decades as uncertainties surrounding the trade fight between the world's two biggest economies, signs of weakening domestic demand and a stock-market slump take their toll on consumers.

"We think with the resources here we can build the Shanghai Gigafactory in record time and we're looking forward to hopefully having some initial production of the Model 3 towards the end of this year and achieving volume production next year", Musk said at the ground breaking ceremony.

The Tesla factory, which will be built with an investment of over 50 billion yuan (USD seven billion), is the largest foreign-invested manufacturing project in Shanghai's history, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

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With the ownership restriction removed, Tesla became the first foreign carmaker to set up a wholly-owned new-energy vehicle (NEV) factory in the mainland.

In October, Tesla warned that tariffs in China were creating challenges. And the competition is getting more and more fierce, ' said Alan Kang, Shanghai-based analyst for consultancy LMC Automotive.

The so-called Gigafactory would also be China's first wholly foreign-owned vehicle plant, a reflection of China's broader shift to open up its auto market even amid a whipsawing trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Domestic and foreign automakers have been racing to grab shares of China's electric-vehicle sector - already the world's biggest and expected to continue to grow as the Chinese government pushes clean technologies.

Tesla has said it plans to use mostly local debt to fund the factory.

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