According to several experts in China, Tesla Motors may find it more difficult to sell its Model S there then the automaker believes.

Tesla Website China

Tesla Website China

Tesla has set high sales expectations in China for the Model S, but will the automaker be able to meet those goals?

Yang Yusheng, a batteries expert at Chinese Academy of Engineering, stated:

"Although heavy smog is an issue in many major Chinese cities, and there is a market waiting for solutions, you can't count on Tesla to make an electric revolution happen.  An electric sedan is not for everyone, not to mention Tesla is a premium brand reserved for high-end customers."

Yang's statement came during an electric vehicle forum held in Beijing last month.

As Yang sees it, the Model S will be more a less a niche EV in China.  However, there will be an EV revolution in China soon, says Yang, but that will be jump started by a homegrown maker of low-speed, wallet-friendly EVs.

As China's ECNS reports:

"Priced at about 30,000 yuan ($4,960), low-speed electric vehicles (including two-wheelers) have a strong presence in China. Experts forecast that more than 300,000 low-speed electric cars were sold in 2013, more than 10 times the total in 2009."

"China is now home to more than 200 million electric two-wheelers, creating about 100 billion yuan in value."

The more convincing facts that support the notion that Tesla Model S sales won't be through the roof come directly from China's sales figures for new-energy passenger vehicles:

BYD e6 is Relatively Popular in China

BYD e6 is Relatively Popular in China

"China's sales of new- energy vehicles stood at only 17,642 in 2013, which still represented a rise from the 12,791 sold the previous year. The 2013 numbers included 14,604 electric cars and 3,038 plug-in hybrid vehicles."

2013 sales figure for the top-selling highway-capable passenger BEVs look like this in China:

  • JAC iEV: ~ 2,500
  • BYD e6: 1,544
  • BAIC E-Series EV: 710
  • Roewe E50: 406
  • Zotye M300 EV: 220
  • Venucia e30: 216
  • BAIC Senova EV: 52
The most successful vehicle for the Chinese market in 2014 is sure to be the 30 mile, PHEV Qin from BYD, that has recently been granted access (along with huge incentives) to both Beijing and Shanghai.  That model has already passed 6,000 units sold already this year.  (that story here)

So, is there a market for the Model S in China?  Sure there is, but will it represent, as Tesla says, 30 to 35% of Tesla sales growth in 2014?

Source: ECNS