Tesla Motors Inc. is seeking to get the Obama administration to pressure Chinese President Xi Jinping to make it easier for U.S. automakers to operate in China, during his state visit to the U.S. next month, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Journal, Tesla's move comes as several new Chinese-backed electric car startups are emerging in the U.S., presenting a new wave of competition for Tesla. Foreign carmakers who wish to assemble vehicles in China must take on a Chinese partner, which presents them with challenges in operating there, and puts them at a disadvantage when compared with Chinese companies operating in the U.S.
“The China-owned companies are not expected to sell controlling stakes to American companies and are free from other trade hurdles that we face,” Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes told the paper.
Tesla's move comes as it is facing increasing competition in China from local firms.
One such firm is the Leshi Internet Info & Tech Corp., owned by billionaire Jia Yueting, which aims to unveil an electric car at the Beijing motor show in 2016, according to a report from Bidness Etc. China's government is aiming to boost sales of electric vehicles, as part of a range of measures it is perusing to curb the country's serious air pollution problem, and has been supportive of domestic entrepreneurs who want to invest in the industry.
The company also faces competition from the Youxia X in the country, which will be priced between $32,200 and $48,300, and compete with the upcoming Model 3. The Youxia X bears a striking similarity in its design to Tesla's Model S sedan.
Tesla made a poor start in the Chinese market. It failed to make its target of getting a third of its global sales from this country in 2014, and sold just 2,499 Model S units there last year, out of its 31,700 worldwide 2014 sales of the model, according to Seeking Alpha. The company has managed to make progress since its market debut in China, and now commands 80 percent of imported plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle sales.