Xinhua Headlines: Tesla's sedan export to Europe mirrors how "Made in China" stabilizes global supply chains

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by Xinhua writers Shen Zhonghao, Pan Geping, Zhou Rui, Yao Yujie

BRUSSELS/SHANGHAI, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- A batch of brand-new Tesla Model 3 sedans, all with white protective films on the front and rear, were driven in succession off a vessel docked at the International Car Operators Terminal of Zeebrugge Port in Belgium late Thursday.

After a month-long sea journey starting from Shanghai, China, the vessel carrying the new electric vehicles arrived at the port on the North Sea coast, concluding the first-ever transport of China-made Tesla cars to be sold in the European market.

Exporting made-in-China autos to Europe is a milestone for the global e-vehicle maker, according to Tesla's executives. And the realization of such a significant mark for the company, at a time when the global economy is being battered by raging COVID-19 pandemic, showcases China's vital role in the stability of the global supply chain.


Destined for Europe in two shipments, some 7,000 sedans manufactured in Tesla's Gigafactory in Shanghai kicked off their journey in October. The first batch of about 3,600 cars arrived on Thursday, showed the Automatic Identification System data of the carrier.

The unloading started at 2:10 p.m. local time(1310 GMT) on Friday as the very first blue Model 3 left the vessel, while the second shipment is slated to reach Europe in early December, Xinhua has learned.

The vehicles will then be shipped to Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland for sale.

Calling it a "milestone" for Tesla's Shanghai Gigafactory, Tao Lin, vice president at Tesla, said the export of China-made Tesla cars will continue as the plant further expands its production capacity.

"Our vehicles are fully compliant with local standards throughout the European market," Tao said, adding the quality of Shanghai-made Tesla cars should be recognized by the European market.


For Tesla and beyond, "Made in China" has been playing an extraordinary role at the current time, when the pandemic is severely dampening global economic activities -- production, consumption and investment, disrupts global industrial supply chains, and brings massive uncertainties for global recovery.

Tao told Xinhua that the U.S. carmaker has gained confidence in China after the country succeeded in overcoming the pandemic and has pushed ahead with economic recovery.

"China has a particularly advanced digital infrastructure, which in many cases helps companies increase their 'resilience' amid the pandemic," Tao noted, adding that Tesla's Shanghai plant has shared its effective experience in COVID-19 prevention with the company's other plants worldwide by offering the so-called "China book," a guidebook for epidemic prevention.

Thanks to the successful containment of the epidemic in China, Tesla was able to swiftly resume its production there, laying the foundation for the export of its autos from Shanghai.

By the end of September, the Shanghai plant had churned out more than 85,000 vehicles worth over 21.6 billion yuan (3.3 billion U.S. dollars), with its weekly production stabilizing at 3,500 to 4,000 vehicles. The value of vehicles and batteries exported from the plant is estimated to reach 450 million dollars within a year.

"The production of Model 3 has reached exactly the capacity for which the Shanghai plant was initially designed," Tao said, adding all the time lost amid the epidemic outbreak early this year has been made up.

In the first 10 months, China's industrial output expanded 1.8 percent from one year earlier, compared with an increase of 1.2 percent in the first three quarters, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed, mirroring the continuous and accelerating rebound of the Chinese real economy.

Sensitive to the flow of freight, the international transportation industry has picked up the pulse of growing shipments of "made in China" to countries and regions across the world.

As of Nov. 5, the number of China-Europe freight trains hit a record high of 10,180 this year, as demand increased amid China's economic recovery and limited international air and sea transport due to the pandemic, according to the China State Railway Group Co., Ltd.

Vincent De Saedeleer, vice president of Zeebrugge port, a natural deepwater harbor with a broad network of road and rail connections across Europe, said the port has seen short-sea trade shrinking as its European business is affected by the pandemic. However, shipping connections between Europe and Asia operate fully loaded as industries in China run at close to full capacity.

"Our aim is to operate as a hub for China in northwest Europe," said Saedeleer.


Foreign investors, including Tesla, are bolstering their presence in China, benefiting from China's recovery and embracing the huge, promising market as the government is committed to pursuing higher-level opening-up with pragmatic policies, as well as consistently improving its business environment.

Tesla China announced on Friday plans to build a supercharger manufacturing factory in Shanghai, which is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2021.

With a planned investment of 42 million yuan (about 6.4 million dollars), the plant will produce 10,000 superchargers annually, mainly the V3 model which can add 250 km of range by charging for mere 15 minutes, at the initial stage.

Tom Zhu, president of Tesla China, said in October that Tesla China will spur domestic demand and expand the global market simultaneously in a bid to support the country to establish a "dual circulation" development pattern -- taking the domestic market as the mainstay while letting internal and external markets boost each other.

Earlier this year, Tesla delivered the first batch of China-made Model 3 sedans to the public, just one year after the company broke ground on its first overseas plant in Shanghai.

Noting that the business environment in China has improved significantly over the past few years, Tao said that Tesla would not have been able to achieve its goals in China so fast without such a favorable business environment.

"The Model Y is a highly anticipated product that will be delivered to Chinese consumers in the first half of next year," Tao said.

Moreover, Tao noted that the design of the Gigafactory in Shanghai is fully in line with international standards, which ensures that its products can satisfy diverse customer needs worldwide. Enditem

(Xinhua reporters Zhai Wei in Brussels and Ji Ming in Shanghai also contributed to the story.)

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