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Tesla CEO Elon Musk praises Chinese automakers


Tesla CEO Elon Musk lauded Chinese automakers Friday, calling them the “most competitive in the world,” during pre-recorded question-and-answer stream at the World New Energy Vehicle Congress, which is hosted in China’s Hainan province.

Musk was very complimentary of China, a nation that is crucial to Tesla’s electric vehicle business. The comments are made as Tesla attempts to enhance its image in China.

Musk stated that he has a lot of respect for Chinese carmakers who drive these (EV-technology) vehicles. Musk claimed that Chinese carmakers have the highest software skills, and this will help “shape” the future automobile industry.

Tesla’s electric car maker competitors in China include companies like Nio and Xpeng.

Musk’s appearance comes as his company works to strengthen its reputation in China. The company broke ground on a major Shanghai factory in 2019 and was seen as a poster child for Beijing’s attempts to show it’s allowing more foreign businesses into its relatively closed market.

Over the past year, however, there has been a lot of negative media about Tesla China. A high-profile incident occurred at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, when a woman claimed she was a Tesla customer and protested a brake problem in her Tesla car. A video of the incident went viral on Chinese social networks, and state media said Tesla had an “arrogant and overbearing stance” in China.

There have been a number of recalls in China and it has come under scrutiny from regulators.

“Tesla is fully aware of the severity of the PR crisis” it faces in China, JL Warren Capital, an equity research firm that focuses on Chinese companies and U.S. companies with significant exposure in China, wrote earlier this summer. Tesla also reached out to social media influencers in China to try to get them to remove or recant their critical posts, including some by noted automotive experts, according to Bloomberg.

Tesla sold 44,264 China-made vehicles in August, including 31,379 for export. The August sales were up from 32,968 Chinese-made vehicles in July and 33.155 units in June.

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