Originally, Tesla was reluctant to shift any production to China. The company's views seem to have changed.
US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla will be tapping its factory in Shanghai, China to supply Tesla Model 3 sedans to ten countries in Europe, the company said in a statement, joining numerous other global auto brands in leaning on China as an export hub. It marks an absolute reversal of the company's previous assurances that the Shanghai factory existed only to satisfy local production demand.
The list of countries that will be receiving their Model 3s from Giga Shanghai include Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland, according to the company, although with construction well underway on Giga Berlin, this is expected to be a temporary measure.
The decision to reverse course and start exporting Model 3s from Shanghai rather than, say, Tesla's plant in Fremont, California could be driven in part by Fremont's new focus on the Tesla Model Y. The new crossover has proven immensely popular already; in just the third quarter of this year, Tesla shipped some 124,100 Model 3s and Model Ys despite the economic fallout from the global pandemic.
Tesla doesn't break down sales by individual model, so it's unknown how many of those deliveries were 3s and how many were Ys, but we have a hunch the Y contributed more than its fair share.
Even still, the optics of an American company shifting production to China aren't great given that the US's trade war with the country is still ongoing. Giga Shanghai, which first came online producing Model 3 sedans in December 2019, is aiming to produce a total of 150,000 vehicles this year before adding the Model Y to the docket in January and increasing production to 250,000 units annually.
Tesla's new Giga Berlin plant in Germany is expected to start operations a few months later, serving as something of a test bed for certain newer technologies such as new single-piece vehicle frame member castings, a new, more energy-dense battery form factor, and even a new factory painting system.