Cover Elon Musk (Image: Frederic J. Brown/AFP)

Elon Musk bets big on the world’s biggest car market with the first-ever China-built Teslas

After months of what Tesla CEO Elon Musk called “production hell,” his electric car company delivered the first 15 Model 3 sedans at its new multibillion-dollar factory in Shanghai—the first outside of the US—to its employees just before the new year. A 90-minute drive away from Shanghai’s city centre, the Tesla Gigafactory 3 broke ground at the beginning of 2019, marking a major milestone for the California-based electric vehicle maker in China.

(Related: 8 Car Brands That Launched Their Very First Road-Ready Electric Cars)

During the ceremony to mark the first deliveries of Model 3s, Tesla’s head of greater China, Tom Zhu, handed over the first cars to employees who had made the purchase. Deliveries to customers will begin before the Lunar New Year on January 25, 2020, as Tesla aims to make China—the world’s biggest market for EVs and autos—the biggest market for its Model 3.

Priced at US$50,000, which is expected to reduce by at least 20 per cent as the company begins to source components locally, Tesla’s Model 3 will compete with electric cars from Chinese contenders including NIO and Xpeng Motors, as well as global competitors such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Musk predicts the production of China-built Model 3 to hit a weekly rate of 3,000 cars at some point, which is three times its current rate of 1,000 cars per week.

With an ambition to expand its manufacturing outside of the US, Musk announced in November 2019 that a European Gigafactory will be built on the outskirts of Berlin, Germany by 2021.