By Benjamin Zhang
Tesla Motors’ $100,000 cars are hitting a sweet spot in China, offering the country’s elite exclusivity and luxury.
But Tesla’s newest feature is going to give those wealthy Chinese customers an entirely different reason to own a Tesla.
Sales in China are ramping up fast. The company sold 1,345 units in China in the third quarter, Xinhua reported. That’s up from 797 units in the first quarter.
In an interview with the news agency on Friday, Tesla founder Elon Musk says he expects sales in China to catch up to those in the US in “five or six years.”
The electric automaker is expected to launch its Model X crossover in China next year, a way to tap China’s booming SUV market. The first Model X was delivered to a US customer last month.
The Model X’s Falcon Wing door is as much of a showstopper as any feature ever installed in an automobile. But for China, the car’s party piece will be its Bioweapon Defense Mode.
It is not because wealthy Chinese live in fear of an anthrax attack. The problem they face is far more mundane.
According to a recent study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, 1.6 million people a year or roughly 4,400 people a day die in China from air-pollution-related illnesses.
Wealthy Chinese are becoming increasingly wary of the country’s heavily polluted land, water, and air, and they’re willing to spend to avoid it — by importing food and spending extended periods of time abroad.
Elon Musk claims the Model X’s Bioweapon Defense Mode can scrub the air in its cabin to the cleanliness level of a hospital operating room.
If Tesla can even come close to delivering on these claims, it’s going to find ready demand among China’s elite.
Although China accounts for only about 10% of the more than 33,000 cars Tesla has delivered this year, the Middle Kingdom is an important growth area for the Silicon Valley automaker. A strong China market would alleviate pressure on the North American and European markets — upon which Tesla is heavily dependent to meet its sales goals.
Last week, Musk also reportedly announced to a group at Beijing’s Tsinghua University that the company could be building cars in China in two years. Although the company could’t confirm the announcement, a Tesla spokesperson did tell Business Insider that they are in discussions with Chinese officials. (Reprinted from Business Insider)