Tesla’s Chinese sales last month were much weaker than they originally appeared.
Although Tesla does not report monthly sales or regional revenue, the China Passenger Car Association earlier this week estimated Tesla’s Chinese sales were down 27% from March to just under 26,000 cars – much worse than the overall 10% decline in China’s electric vehicle sales overall.
But that’s no the full story: The trade group later clarified that its April figure includes sales of vehicles built in China but exported to other markets. More than half of the Teslas initially reported as Chinese sales – 14,174 – were exported.
China is the world’s largest market for overall car sales, and electric vehicles make up a much bigger share of auto sales than in any other major market – about 4.5% in 2020, more than twice the EV share of the US car market last year.
Customers protested the company at China’s largest auto show in Shanghai last month, complaining about problems with their cars. The company also has five Chinese regulatory agencies investigating the quality of its Shanghai-made Model 3 cars.
Chinese media also reported that China’s military had banned Tesla vehicles from entering its complexes, expressing concerns that onboard cameras could be used for spying – a charge Tesla CEO Elon Musk has denied.
“Keep in mind that the negative state-affiliated media campaign inside China around Tesla’s car quality didn’t begin until late April,” noted Gordon Johnson of GLJ Research, one of the harshest critics of Tesla.
Tesla shares have been falling this week on worries about its Chinese sales, and on a report from Reuters earlier that Tesla has decided not to buy land next to its Shanghai plant for possible future expansion.
A spectacular 743% share price gain in 2020 made Tesla one of the most valuable US companies of any kind and by far the world’s most valuable automaker, worth as much as the six largest automakers combined.