Tesla said to be considering raising prices in China

Tesla superchargers in a parking lot in Suzhou, China, where the car maker is mulling price rises amid yuan-related uncertainty. (Reuters)
Updated 07 August 2019

Tesla said to be considering raising prices in China

  • Company may raise prices starting in September

BEIJING: US electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc is considering lifting its prices in China from September amid yuan-related uncertainty, two people familiar with the matter said.
The people declined to be named as the plan has not been made public. They did not offer detail on the price change.
China allowed the yuan to weaken past the 7-per-dollar level on Monday for the first time in more than a decade, after which the US government labelled China a currency manipulator, raising the stakes in the trade dispute between the two countries.
China firmly opposes the currency manipulator label saying it has not used and will not use the yuan to cope with the US trade frictions.
The sharp drop in the yuan comes days after US President Donald Trump stunned financial markets by vowing to impose 10% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports from Sept. 1, abruptly breaking a brief ceasefire in a trade war that has disrupted global supply chains and slowed growth.
Tesla currently imports all the cars it sells in China, but it is in the process of building a factory in Shanghai that will manufacture Model 3 cars in the initial phase and help it minimize the impact of the trade war and tariffs.
If enacted, this would be the first case of a planned price adjustment by an importer since the yuan fell this week and points to the growing pressure that importers are facing.
Tesla broke ground on the Shanghai factory in January and its Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has said the firm aims to finish initial construction this summer and start production of the Model 3 towards the end of the year.
Deliveries of all models in the second quarter this year rose 51% from the first quarter to 95,200 vehicles, including 77,550 Model 3s, 17,650 Model S and X.
Last month, Tesla globally dropped the standard-range variants of its Model X and Model S from its product lineup and adjusted prices across its range.
In China, the world's largest electric vehicle market, the trade frictions between China and the US has caused Tesla to adjust its multiple times over the past year because of the tariff changes.


GM energizes Chinese electric micro car market

The Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV, below. (Supplied)
Updated 18 min 45 sec ago

GM energizes Chinese electric micro car market

  • Trend toward a new segment of EVs in the country following changes to government subsidies

BEIJING: When 32-year-old photographer Jaco Xu needed a run-around car for work in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the price tag on the latest micro EV from GM’s China joint venture overcame his qualms about electric vehicles.

Xu paid 38,800 yuan ($5,735) for his tiny two-door Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV, while the basic model retails for just 28,800 yuan ($4,200), making it China’s cheapest EV.
“It feels pretty good. The price is so low and the appearance is simple and beautiful,” said Xu. “Why would I hesitate at that price?“
Launched in July, the Wuling MINI is heading a trend toward a new segment of EVs in China following changes to government subsidies — smaller vehicles with less range between charges, but a super-cheap price tag.
Despite basic features — no safety air bags, optional air-conditioning and a driving range of less than 200 km (125 miles) due to a smaller battery — buyers have been enthusiastic.
SGMW, GM’s venture with partners SAIC Motor Corp. and Guangxi Automobile Group, sold about 15,000 of the vehicles in August, making it China’s top-selling EV for the month, surpassing Tesla’s popular Model 3.
The venture plans to expand manufacturing capabilities of the new model, turning out cars at its plant in Liuzhou as well as its existing facilities in Qingdao, said Zhou Xing, SGMW’s branding and marketing director.
“We positioned this model as a ‘people’s commuting tool’,” he said, speaking ahead of the Beijing auto show that starts on Saturday. “Customers can drive their cars to work every day.”
The target market includes people like Xu who are looking for a city run-around as a second car, rural buyers who want a vehicle to move goods and young first-time buyers who are motivated by price.

HIGHLIGHTS

● GM JV micro car is China’s best-selling EV in August.

● Wuling MINI EV targets new EV buyers, sells from $4,200.

● Leads trend to smaller cars, batteries after subsidy cuts.

Total sales of new energy vehicles — including electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles — are expected to reach 1.1 million vehicles in China this year, about 5 percent of total auto sales. The micro car represents a shift in what typifies a mainstream electric vehicle, as policymakers push for increased EV production and sales have been bolstered by restrictions on petrol-fueled cars.
In response to government requirements to win generous EV subsidies, automakers over the past decade have developed higher energy-density battery systems to allow cars to drive for longer with a single charge.
Tesla’s Model 3, which has a range of more than 400 km, has been the market leader in China for most of 2020, retailing for about $43,000, about 10 times the cost of the Wuling MINI.
However, China cut subsidies heavily in 2019 and is now asking for higher EV power efficiency to save energy. Automakers, in turn, are planning more smaller EVs with a moderate driving range aimed at customers who can charge cars easily, industry executives said.
The economics are skinny. Wuling MINI will not get EV subsidies due to its short range. For SGMW, the cheap price tag means it makes very little money at best, according to insiders.
EVs, however, generate green credits for SGMW that can be used to offset negative credits of other companies like SGM, its sister venture which is expanding a lineup of bigger SUVs under Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac marques.
“Selling micro EVs in China makes more sense this year,” said a product planning official at a GM rival. “Subsidies have become a less important factor of pricing as government has already cut a lot, while green credits are expected to become more expensive,” the official said.
Bidding to reverse a sales decline due to a slower economy and stiff competition, GM expects EVs to make up more than 40 percent of its new launches in China over the next five years.
The Detroit automaker is revamping plants in Shanghai, Wuhan and Liuzhou under its two Chinese JVs to enable production lines making gasoline cars to turn out EVs, public documents detailing its constructions plans show.
For now, the Wuling MINI is the cheapest EV, but it faces competition from the cheapest models from rivals BYD and BAIC BluePark.
Great Wall Motor and Toyota’s China partner GAC are also planning more electric models with a range below 400 km, company officials said this month.
And startup Kaiyun Motors is trying to radically lower the price of its new electric pickup truck Pixel to about 20,000 yuan for urban delivery services, although these EVs will be sold without batteries, allowing consumers to swap them.