China set to become Tesla’s leading world market: industry veteran
Published: Jul 15, 2020 08:43 PM

A Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle stands on display at Seoul Motor Show in South Korea on March 28, 2019. Photo: VCG

A spike in COVID-19 exposure has reportedly hit Tesla's Fremont Factory in California, threatening the company's reopening on its home turf, where the coronavirus pandemic continues.

But the California-based electric carmaker is ambitiously pursuing its China dream and increasing hiring, in a move industry insiders believe will make the nation Tesla's top market.

The coronavirus problems at the California facility were reported by industry news site Electrek on Tuesday, citing an internal data leak. More than 130 workers have tested positive for the coronavirus with more nucleic acid test results pending, the report claimed.

The troubling picture stands in striking contrast to Tesla's thriving operations in the Chinese market. 

Multiple job listings are posted on the company's website in the specialties of manufacturing, engineering and information technology, and sales and marketing, among others, in cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, the Global Times found on Wednesday. 

Additionally, there are rumors of a second factory in Shanghai beyond the Gigafactory, Electrek said in a separate report on Tuesday.

"There's no official comment" on the purported plan, Tesla China said on Wednesday when reached by the Global Times. 

With the US still suffering from the pandemic, a factory reopening would inevitably be exposed to virus risks. In the meantime, China is becoming a pivotal market for Tesla and there is a chance of China unseating the US as the top market for the automaker, Zeng Zhiling, managing director of LMC Automotive Consulting in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Tesla's growth in China hinges on the localization of its supply chain and continued price cuts, according to Zeng.

Tesla, which has lately topped Toyota as the world's No.1 automaker by market capitalization, is one of the most popular electric cars in China.

China's all-electric vehicle sales tallied 67,000 in June, down a staggering 40 percent year-on-year, while Tesla held a 23-percent market share, according to the Chinese Passenger Car Association (CPCA).

Tesla sold 14,954 Shanghai-made Model 3 vehicles in June in China, up 35 percent from May, the CPCA figures showed.