Tesla unveils aggressive growth plan for China

BEIJING - U.S. electric carmaker Tesla Motors (TSLA) expects its China sales to contribute one-third of global sales growth this year, a senior executive said, adding that a trademark issue stalling full-entry into China had been resolved.

Veronica Wu, vice president of Tesla's China operations, told Reuters the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company planned to open stores in 10 to 12 Chinese cities by the end of 2014, including its flagship store in Beijing that opened late last year.

Wu, the 43-year-old executive who jumped ship to Tesla from Apple's China unit at the end of last year, said Tesla China had a "very aggressive growth objective." She said the unit was aiming to contribute "30 to 35 percent" of Tesla's overall global sales growth targeted for 2014.

  Wu also said the company aimed to double overall total sales this year. She put global sales at 23,000 to 24,000 last year. "I have my work cut out for me," Wu said in an interview. "But I am pretty confident."

Wu discussed Tesla's plans for its Chinese sales and marketing operations at Tesla's flagship store inside an upscale shopping mall in Beijing a day after announcing its pricing strategy.

Tesla said on Thursday that a version of the Tesla Model S, a sleek all-electric battery car that sells for $81,070 in the U.S., would retail for 734,000 yuan ($121,300) in China after shipping costs and import duty and other taxes. The company was referring to a Model S with an 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

The Beijing-born Wu, who worked for Apple's China unit in Beijing from 2006 until she joined Tesla in December, said that given the Tesla car's "quality," the Model S offered "great value."

Wu also applauded Beijing's support for electric and plug-in electric hybrid cars. She said Tesla had  resolved a trademark issue that had long prevented the company from using "Te Si La" -- the Chinese name best known among Chinese consumers, which Tesla wanted to use in China.

 "We went to court and we won," she said. "The court has given use right to use the name, which is why you see the Chinese name in our store now."The name had been registered by a local businessman who had refused to give up the trademark. The U.S. company had started offering its popular Model S sedans in China, but with no Chinese language name.

Wu said Tesla had no plans to start local production of its cars in China, at least for the time being.

"Right now we are not considering (that) as yet," the Tesla China chief said.

"The most important task right now, now that we have announced our pricing strategy, is to focus on getting the right car and making sure we have the right service network, and making sure the Chinese customer is happy," she said. "Happy customers are the best advocate of your product, right?"

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