US car manufacturer Tesla on Friday began delivery of the first batch of its popular Tesla Model 3 in China, one month after its Shanghai plant, the first production base outside the US, started construction amid a prolonged US-China trade war.
According to The Paper (in Chinese), over one thousand US-made Tesla Model 3 arrived in Shanghai Pudong Waigaoqiao Port before dawn on Friday. Chinese media cited a local customs official as saying vehicle inspection would be finished over the coming weekend, before Chinese customers could pick them up as early as next month.
Tesla announced the role-out of Model 3 in China in one of its Beijing stores on Friday morning, with a starting price of RMB 433,000 (roughly $64,440) for the rear wheel drive model. It was first launched in US in July 2017 and became the best-selling deluxe model in North America in 2018.
Tesla had sent Model 3 vehicles in a total of three vessels to China, and the last one is expected to land in the port of Tianjin in northern China by Sunday morning, according to the Beijing News. Analysts believe Tesla is rushing to complete the shipments by the end of this month, as China would probably end its temporary 15% tariffs on US-made cars in March.
China has levied heavy tariff rates of over 40% on imported American vehicles since August 2018 when the US-China trade war escalated. This was halted by central government in December with the replacement of 15% for the period of three months.
In a recent visit to China, Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed his affection for China to the Premier Li Keqiang, with Li responding by saying Musk could be granted permanent residency. Musk said on Twitter earlier this year that its Shanghai Gigafactory will start low-volume production by the end of 2019.