As Tesla delivered its first eight electric cars to excited consumers in China Tuesday, CEO Elon Musk made bold promises about Tesla’s future in the Middle Kingdom.
Musk told reporters a nationwide network of charging stations and several hundred service centers are due as soon as possible and that the green automaker has pledged to spend several hundred million dollars on infrastructure in the region.
“My instructions to the team are to spend money as fast as they can spend it without wasting it,” he said.
A ceremony was held at Tesla’s new office in a Beijing industrial park, which will double as the site of the company’s first charging station.
“I’m incredibly appreciative of customers like you for taking a chance on a new product from a new company,” Musk told the crowd. “Without customers like you, we would have no chance.”
Chinese officials want to see the green car be a go in the world’s most populated region because air pollution in the area is bad. They had initially called for 500,000 electric cars to be sold by 2015, but have since scaled back those plans.
Tesla hopes to charge into the territory by partnering with state-owned power monopolies like State Grid and Southern Grid, Musk said, adding no “serious discussions” have taken place.
Musk had previously announced that he expected sales of 5,000 Teslas this year, but he said that number was just a guess.
“I do think that’s probably a good number. Maybe it will be higher,” he said. “I don’t honestly know. Thus far the response has been very positive.”
Musk said yesterday he hopes to be manufacturing electric cars in China in as little as three to four years.
Tesla deliveries in China have already been stalled by several months, much like in Europe where it rolled vehicles out too quickly. Though customers were angry, Musk said it was necessary to wait until all customers had access to charging facilities.
“We intentionally held back on the debut to the Chinese market until we were confident of that,” he said. Referring to customers, he said, “I met with them earlier today and personally apologized.”
While it seems all eyes are on Tesla in China this week during the initial roll-out, Musk continued to talk up his proposed $5 billion lithium-ion battery Gigafactory in the United States.
Though nothing has officially been announced, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are all jockeying to be the winning state of the factory that is expected to create 6,500 jobs and produce more lithium-ion batteries than ever thought possible.