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Tesla’s China Sales Off The Pace as Price-Cut Boost Fades

Analysts say an ageing product line, yet-to-be-upgraded navigation systems and an absence of luxury interior touches have also taken a toll on Tesla

Tesla showroom
People protest at a Tesla showroom in Chengdu, in western Sichuan province, on January 6, 2023 in an image obtained by Reuters from social media.


Tesla’s electric vehicle (EV) sales in China rose last week but were still running short of the pace seen in the fourth quarter, in the first signs that the bump from its price cut push in its biggest overseas market is fading.

The US automaker nearly doubled weekly retail sales in the week of February 20 to 10,703 vehicles versus a week prior, data from China Merchants Bank International (CMBI) showed on Tuesday, which tracks weekly retail sales based on car insurance registrations.

The tally was the highest after that of the week of January 9 when Tesla sold 12,654 Model 3 and Model Y cars after lowering prices by as much as 14% on January 6.


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However, year-to-date average daily sales was 1,016 cars, whereas in October and November the figure was 1,317, indicating that price cuts may not be enough to accelerate sales in the first quarter compared with the fourth.

Sales are slowing in part due to an ageing product line, said Yale Zhang, managing director at Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight. Consumers are also delaying purchases while waiting to see if other EV makers cut prices, Zhang said.

The US automaker has lagged behind competitors in China in introducing new models, improving navigation systems and adding luxury interior touches or white-glove customer service to meet a developing range of consumer tastes, analysts and fans said.

Chief Executive Elon Musk will announce the third part of Tesla’s “Master Plan” on its March 1 Investor Day, when the firm has to convince investors that even though rivals are catching up, Tesla can widen its lead with another leap forward.


Tesla Export Push

While competition intensifies, Tesla aims to grow exports and expand into new markets to digest output from its factory in Shanghai. It has started delivering cars to Thailand and set up its first Supercharger station in the Southeast Asian country earlier in February.

Tesla had planned to keep Shanghai’s average weekly output at 20,000 vehicles in February and March, while its plant in German capital Berlin increased Model Y production to a third of that in Shanghai.

Tesla’s performance is in line with China’s overall EV sector, which has suffered from the end of a more than decade-long government subsidies.

Its share of the country’s fragmented new energy vehicle market including both all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars declined to 9% from 10% a year earlier, according to CMBI data.

Meanwhile, the market share of BYD surged to 37% from 27%, CMBI data showed. Smaller EV players such as Leap Motor and Great Wall Motor’s Ora are among those whose market share shrank.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


Read more:

Tesla Starts Raising China EV Rates After Igniting Price War

Tesla Sold 18% More China-Made Electric Vehicles in January

Chinese Carmakers Are Tesla’s ‘Hardest, Smartest’ Rivals: Musk



Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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