Tesla starts China hiring before breaking ground in Shanghai

Inside a Tesla showroom (Bloomberg pic)

BEIJING: Cash-strapped Tesla Inc has yet to reveal details of the investment needed for its Shanghai plant. But it has already started hiring for the facility.

In a social media post on its WeChat account last week, the electric-vehicle maker sought out more than a dozen engineers and machinists for its proposed plant in the Chinese city. The facility, known as the Gigafactory 3, is expected to churn out about 250,000 vehicles and battery packs per year initially, and that capacity will double over time.

“The ‘Dreadnought’ is about to sail,” Tesla said in the recruitment ad, referring to the early 20th-century legendary British battleship that inspired a later class of vessels built for naval warfare. “We are recruiting the first batch of sailors and looking forward to having you on board soon.”

Tesla’s expansion in China is key to Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s goal of dominating EVs for decades to come. The Asian country is the world’s No. 1 EV market and the second-largest for Tesla, which expects to start rolling out the first cars off the local factory in three years. It is also entering a fierce talent war as myriad local startups and auto giants like Volkswagen AG and BMW AG set up production in the mainland.

The Palo Alto, California-based firm would look to China to at least partially fund the US$5 billion cost of the new plant designed for 500,000 cars annually at full capacity, and it expects to start making the Model 3 there by 2020, according to a person familiar with the plans. Musk said on a conference last week it would probably cost closer to US$2 billion for a 250,000-vehicle factory, while the company said it plans to use mostly local debt to fund the facility.