Elon Musk fears China more than Tesla’s US rivals

The advancement of manufacturing and strong work ethic place China at the forefront of the electric car war, says Tesla boss.

Elon Musk says the biggest competitors to US electric car maker Tesla lie off-shore – in China.

Speaking at the 2023 New York Times DealBook Summit – where the billionaire stirred controversy with his comments regarding the ‘X’ social media platform – the Tesla CEO said the rapid competitiveness of Chinese brands is a challenge for all car makers.

“Electric car sales in China are gigantic … Chinese car companies are extremely competitive,” said Musk.

“By far Tesla's competition is in China. There are a lot of people out there who think that the top 10 car companies are going to be Tesla followed by nine Chinese car companies. I think they might not be wrong,” the Tesla boss said.

“China is super good at manufacturing, and the work ethic is incredible. If we consider different leagues of competitiveness at Tesla, we consider the Chinese league to be the most competitive.”

In 2022, 59 per cent of the world’s electric vehicle sales were in China, according to the World Economic Forum, with Tesla having opened its own factory in Shanghai in 2019.

“Tesla has one of four factories in China, and China is a quarter of our market," Mr Musk said.

“The same is true, by the way, of all the other car companies — they also have something in the order of a quarter of their sales in China. So if that's a problem for Tesla it's a problem for every car company.”

The comments come as Chinese electric and hybrid-electric car maker is set to steal Tesla’s crown as the world’s best-selling electric vehicle brand for 2023.

BYD manufactured its six-millionth vehicle in November 2023, while Tesla is yet to reach the milestone, producing its five-millionth car in September 2023.

BYD, which does not sell cars on Tesla’s home turf USA, is on track to produce a total of 2.5 million electric and electric hybrid vehicles in 2023.

That will surpass Tesla, which is forecast to meet its production goal of 1.8 million cars built.

BYD launched in Australia in late 2022 with the Atto 3 electric SUV, before opening order books for the Dolphin and the Seal in late 2023.

At its current sales rate, the Chinese car maker is set to sell more than 10,000 electric vehicles in Australia in 2023.

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