Tesla's Future In Jeopardy: Will Musk's SURPRISE Visit To China Turn The Tide?

By Javier Sanchez | Monday, 29 April 2024 08:30 PM
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Image Credit : Photo by John SmitReuters

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, made an unanticipated visit to Beijing on Sunday, where he is projected to engage in discussions with high-ranking officials concerning the deployment of Full Self-Driving (FSD) software and the authorization to transfer data overseas, as per an individual privy to the situation.

Chinese state media reported that Musk had a meeting with Premier Li Qiang in Beijing. During this meeting, Li expressed to Musk that Tesla's growth in China could be seen as a triumphant instance of US-China economic and trade collaboration.

Tesla, the U.S. electric vehicle manufacturer, introduced the FSD, the most autonomous version of its Autopilot software, four years ago. However, it has not yet been made available in China, Tesla's second-largest market worldwide, despite customer appeals for its release.

Earlier this month, Musk hinted that Tesla might make FSD accessible to Chinese customers "very soon," responding to an inquiry on social media platform X. This move is seen as a counter to rival Chinese automakers like Xpeng, who are attempting to gain an edge over Tesla by launching similar software.

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Musk is seeking approval to transfer data collected in China overseas to train algorithms for its autonomous driving technologies, according to the source. Since 2021, Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai, as mandated by Chinese regulators, and has not transferred any back to the United States.

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Musk's visit to China, initially reported by Reuters, was not publicly announced, and the source requested anonymity due to not being authorized to speak with the media. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV did not mention whether Musk's meeting with Li involved discussions about FSD or data. Earlier in the day, a separate report by state radio noted that Li had visited the ongoing Beijing auto show and commented on China's leading position in the smart new energy vehicle (NEV) sector and the need to maintain its advantages.

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Musk also met with Ren Hongbin, a government official who heads the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the organizer of the Beijing auto show, as reported by state media.

In a video posted on social media by a user affiliated with state media, Musk stated, "It is good to see electric vehicles making progress in China. All cars will be electric in the future."

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Musk's trip to China comes just over a week after he canceled a planned visit to India to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing "very heavy Tesla obligations."

Tesla announced earlier this month that it would lay off 10% of its global workforce as it struggles with declining sales and an escalating price war for EVs led by Chinese brands.

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On Friday, U.S. auto safety regulators announced they had initiated an investigation into whether Tesla's recall of more than 2 million vehicles in the U.S. in December to install new Autopilot safeguards was sufficient following a series of crashes.

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A Gulfstream private jet registered to Falcon Landing, a company connected to SpaceX and Tesla, landed at Beijing Capital Airport on Sunday, according to Chinese flight tracking app Flight Manager.

Tesla has sold over 1.7 million cars in China since it entered the market a decade ago, and its Shanghai factory is its largest globally.

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Musk's visit coincides with the Beijing auto show, which opened last week and ends on May 4. Tesla does not have a booth at China's largest auto show and last attended in 2021.

Also on Friday, Grace Tao, Tesla's vice president in charge of external relations in China, published a commentary on the social media account of state media outlet People's Daily, arguing that autonomous driving technologies would be the new growth engine for the EV industry.

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Musk announced last week that Tesla would introduce new, cheaper models using its current EV platforms and production lines and would offer a new "robotaxi" with self-driving technology. He said in a post on X this month that he would unveil the robotaxi on Aug. 8.

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Tesla shares have fallen almost a third since the beginning of the year as concerns have grown about the EV maker's growth trajectory. Last week, Tesla reported its first decline in quarterly revenue since 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic slowed production and deliveries.

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