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Tesla’s problem in China: there aren’t enough rich Chinese nerds

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
Only for the tech obsessed.
By Lily Kuo
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Tesla isn’t faring so well in China. Today, its vice president of communications in China, June Jin, left the company after less than a year. Jin’s departure comes after the president of Tesla’s China operation, Venus Wu, quit abruptly in December.

The company has run into a range of problems in China, from concerns over the number of charging stations available to government efforts to bolster home-grown car companies. Tesla has exported only 3,500 cars to China, below its goal of 5,000, and the company said it saw ”unexpectedly weak” sales in the country in the fourth quarter.

The departure of Tesla’s top communications executive in China might have something to do with the company’s difficulties in marketing itself to China’s wealthy families. Tesla is seen as the toy of choice for wealthy, technology-obsessed drivers, but lacks the flashy prestige that comes with a Mercedes, BMW, or Audi, let alone a Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Tesla owner Chen Zhong, a marketing officer at an online media company in Beijing, told the New York Times that ”the first time I drove it I thought I was driving an iPad.” Owning a Tesla “makes us Internet technology people feel superior,” he said.

Tesla releases its latest quarterly earnings today and is likely to report that China remains a weak spot. But Tesla founder Elon Musk remains optimistic. “We’ll fix the China issue and be in pretty good shape probably in the middle of the year,” he said last month.

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