Although Tesla Motors Inc’s expansion to the Far East was certainly a topic of interest at the 2014 Boao Forum for Asia, an economic conference held in Hainan province, the company did not receive much praise from a group of Chinese auto industry executives. Several execs from Chinese auto-making firms were interviewed by the media at the conference, and they were uniformly dismissive of Tesla.
Elon Musk is no Steve Jobs
Xu Heyi, the chairman of Beijing Automotive Industry Holding (BAIC), one of China’s largest state-owned auto manufacturers, said point blank that it was “impossible” for Tesla Motors Inc to become the Apple Inc. of the auto industry, and that he was “certain” that Tesla CEO Elon Musk was no Steve Jobs.
Xu’s comment comes in the context of an announcement that BAIC would introduce a new electric car superior to the Model S by the end of 2015. BAIC also acquired a 25% stake in Atieva, a California-based battery developer founded by a former Tesla exec, just a couple of months ago. This move was seen by analysts as an effort to stay relevant in the “battery wars” as well as improve the performance of its electric vehicle line.
“Tiny fraction” of Chinese car market
Chief executive Zhu Fushou of Dongfeng Motor Group, another large Chinese auto manufacturer, was also dismissive of Tesla Motors Inc becoming the nextApple Inc. “Tesla set its [global] sales target at 70,000. But this is a just a fraction of the Chinese car market,” Zhu explained.
Zhu continued to say electric vehicles still need more technological breakthroughs relating to battery costs and safety features to become economically viable for the mainstream consumer.
More than 21.9 million cars were sold in China last year, an increase of almost 14% from 2012. while Tesla Motors Inc ’s global sales, on the other hand, only totaled a paltry 22,300 in 2013.