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Tesla plans Chinese models, R&D centre

Hatching a plan: Tesla has revealed a design sketch of its new compact hatchback.

Chinese R&D centre planned by Tesla along with local-market models

20 Jan 2020

TESLA has taken to Chinese social media app WeChat to announce its intentions to build a research and development centre in China to create Chinese-designed products for the local market and beyond.


The post on the Chinese social media platform read: “In order to achieve a shift from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Designed in China,’ [Elon Musk] has proposed a very cool thing: set up a R&D centre in China.”


It also included a call for job applicants with the intention of designing “Chinese-style” Tesla models, suggesting the company may be planning to create a car designed for the Chinese market or other specific regions.


Along with the announcement, Tesla also included a sketch of what looks to be Tesla’s take on a compact EV hatchback, which could end up being one of the “Chinese-style” models.


The hatchback borrows some obvious front-end design cues from the Model 3 sedan, including its headlight and grille-less front end shape, while the rear end shows a coupe-like profile that will likely be altered for the final production vehicle.


Telsa CEO Elon Musk has previously stated that the company intends to build a car for worldwide sale in China, which would likely be built at its new Gigafactory in Shanghai.


The Shanghai Gigafactory has an annual production capacity of 500,000 units, and currently builds the Model 3 sedan with plans to also provide the capability to produce the upcoming Model Y medium SUV.


Tesla announced in October that production for the Model Y was ahead of schedule and was expected to first launch around the middle of the year instead of the third quarter as originally anticipated.


It took Tesla only 10 months to build the Shanghai Gigafactory, which is predicted by the company to play a major role in making China the largest global market for Model 3 sales.


China is also the largest overall EV market in the world, with 1.21 million vehicles sold in 2019 making for a 4.7 per cent share of overall new-vehicle sales.


The as-yet-unnamed hatchback will likely compete with the likes of the upcoming Volkswagen ID 3 as well as existing offerings like the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and Renault Zoe.


Tesla does not traditionally disclose sales figures in Australia, however GoAuto reported in October that in its first two months on sale, 2414 units of the Model 3 were sold, greatly outstripping any other EV model sold here.


More details on the compact hatch will be revealed in future.


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