The FINANCiAL -- The first big shipment of Tesla Model 3s has finally landed in China. Reports from Chinese government media report that the Glovis Symphony arrived at Tianjin Port a short time ago. The next shipments will arrive in Tianjin and Shanghai next week as Tesla rushes to convert Model 3 reservations and early orders into delivered vehicles before the end of the quarter (in which Elon Musk is hoping to eke out another profit).
The ship was loaded up in San Francisco and set out to sea on January 23rd before racking up 18 days at sea. That gives us our first look at the lead time Tesla is going to have to absorb for Chinese shipments as it works to balance the opportunity for new customers with the increase in inventory that it will experience from having fully built Tesla Model 3s in transit and on the books for 18 days.
Thankfully, the shipments to China should only be a one-year stop-gap measure while construction ramps up at Tesla’s third Gigafactory, which is just outside of Shanghai, China. The new factory will help Tesla avoid import taxes on its fully built vehicles, not to mention avoiding the work and expense of shipping vehicles halfway around the world.
The first reports of the Tesla Model 3 in China came through just a few days ago as Tesla started flying the vehicles directly into the country to get them into showrooms as quickly as possible. Seeing the car in the country created a buzz that has now increased to a fever pitch as thousands of them start rolling off of ships en masse.
China is the world’s largest market for automobiles and also for plug-in vehicles, as governmental regulations have clamped down on vehicle emissions in recent years. The smaller footprint of the Tesla Model 3 makes it a great fit for the more congested city centers and for drivers who just want to have fun.
Reports also indicate that the smaller rear seats of the Model 3 relative to the Model S make it a little less attractive to wealthier Chinese buyers who are often driven around by a chauffeur (and thus put a premium on rear passenger comfort). However, others have found the full glass roof makes the Model 3 more enjoyable for back-seat passengers.