Tesla demand rebounds in China

Registrations of Tesla Inc. vehicles rebounded last month in China, suggesting demand is picking up for the U.S. carmaker’s electric sedans as the world’s largest auto market recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, 11,364 China-built Teslas were registered in the country, according to data from state-backed China Automotive Information Net. That’s the highest monthly tally so far for the carmaker, which is ramping up output after starting deliveries from its first Chinese plant around the beginning of the year.

China is a crucial market for Tesla’s growth plans as the company nears eclipsing Toyota Motor Corp. as the world’s most valuable automaker. Yet risks such as Tesla getting caught in U.S.-China trade tensions remain.

The registration tally signals that Tesla is faring better than other electric-vehicle makers in China. While the country’s car market as a whole is recovering — expanding last month for the first time in almost a year as factories and dealerships reopen following the pandemic — sales of EVs have slumped since mid-2019 after the government moved to scale back subsidies and falling oil price made gas guzzlers more competitive.

Tesla was the top EV seller in the country in May, the China Passenger Car Association said last week. It beat out local rivals such as NIO Inc. and global peers including Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler AG. Yet it’s early days for the EV industry, with everyone from Toyota to Volkswagen AG rolling out new models.

“Tesla showed relatively strong performance last month,” Cui Dongshu, secretary general of PCA, told reporters last week. “Tesla outperformed all other domestic new-energy vehicle makers.”

Total sales of new-energy vehicles, including electric cars, fell 26% last month to 70,200 units, following a drop of 30% in April and 49% in March, according to PCA. The government still considers electric cars a priority growth area, and has added a slew of fresh stimulus measures to help the industry recover.

Cars built at Tesla’s new Shanghai plant — its first outside the U.S. — have made up the vast majority of Tesla registrations in China since output from the facility began. The company appears to be on track to reach 100,000 deliveries from the plant in the first year, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said last week.

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Tesla demand rebounds in China