Elon Musk makes unannounced visit to China

Elon Musk makes unannounced visit to China

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrived in Beijing on Sunday on an unannounced visit, where he is expected to meet senior officials to discuss the rollout of Full Self-Driving software and permission to transfer data overseas, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Chinese state media reported that he met Premier Li Qiang in Beijing, during which Li told Musk that Tesla’s development in China could be seen as a successful example of US-China economic and trade cooperation.

The US electric vehicle maker rolled out Full Self-Driving, or FSD, the most autonomous version of its Autopilot software, four years ago but has yet to make it available in China, its second-largest market, despite customers urging it to do so.

Musk said this month that Tesla may make FSD available to customers in China “very soon”, in response to a query on social media platform X.

Rival Chinese automakers such as Xpeng have been seeking to gain an advantage over Tesla by rolling out similar software.

Musk hopes to obtain approval to transfer data collected in the country abroad to train algorithms for its autonomous driving technologies, the person said.

Since 2021 Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai as required by Chinese regulators and has not transferred any back to the US.

Musk’s visit coincides with the Beijing auto show, which opened last week and ends on 4 May. Tesla does not have a booth at China’s largest auto show and last attended in 2021.

His visit to China, first reported by Reuters, was not flagged publicly and the person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak with media. Tesla did not respond immediately for comment.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, in its report about Musk’s meeting with Li, did not say whether the two had discussed FSD, or data.

Musk also met with Ren Hongbin, a government official who heads the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, the organiser of the Beijing auto show, state media reported.

“It is good to see electric vehicles making progress in China. All cars will be electric in the future,” Musk said in a video posted on social media by a user affiliated with state media.

Musk’s trip came just over a week after he scrapped a planned visit to India to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing “very heavy Tesla obligations”.

The company said this month it would lay off 10% of its global workforce as it grapples with falling sales and an intensifying price war for EVs led by Chinese brands.

US auto safety regulators said on Friday they had opened an investigation into whether Tesla’s recall of more than 2m vehicles in the US announced in December to install new Autopilot safeguards was adequate after a series of crashes.

Tesla has sold more than 1.7m cars in China since it entered the market a decade ago. The Shanghai factory is its largest.

Source: theguardian.com