YANG JIAN

In China, Musk rivals Jobs as tech superstar

COMMENTARY
Yang Jian is China Correspondent for Automotive News
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SHANGHAI -- Never before has a car model created such a big splash in China as the Tesla Model S electric sedan.

Tesla has yet to deliver a single Model S to China, but the car has attracted an enormous amount of attention from Chinese media and car buyers.

Chinese journalists have closely monitored Tesla's progress in the United States and its efforts to bring the Model S to China. Some question whether Tesla can sustain its growth.

But most admire the company's innovative business model of selling the Model S through its own stores. And CEO Elon Musk drew kudos after his company declared a profit last year.

For some in China, Elon Musk has attained rock-star status.

In fact, Musk enjoys the kind of stardom in China's business media that until recently was reserved for people like the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc.

"Musk, Jobs, who is more remarkable?" is the headline of an article published recently in IT Time, a weekly magazine based in Guangzhou. The article cast its vote for Musk.

The furor is even more remarkable when you consider that the car's starting price is 734,000 yuan, or about $118,000.

But never mind that. Wealthy Chinese consumers, especially young ones, love luxury goods that display their social status. And a pricey Model S is exactly what they want.

The company opened its first China store in Beijing in November. It plans to open sales outlets in Shanghai and other major Chinese cities this year.

Tesla didn't start taking orders in China until the end of last year, but the orders are piling up. The first batch of cars will be delivered to mainland China next month. If a purchaser places an order now, he will have to wait until the end of this year to get the car, according to Tesla's store in Beijing.

With the company planning to open dealerships in more cities, the excitement it has generated will not subside any time soon.

You can reach Yang Jian at yangjian@autonewschina.com.

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