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商业 - 汽车

特斯拉豪赌中国市场

Scott Cendrowski 2014年05月09日

中国未来几年内就有望成为特斯拉最大的市场,但前提是它必须在中国实现国产化。特斯拉CEO穆斯克希望能在3到4年内实现这个目标。但实际上,无论是合资建厂生产汽车,还是合作建设充电网络,特斯拉都面临着重重障碍。

    特斯拉(Tesla)位于中国大陆的唯一一个展厅(公司喜欢将其称为“体验中心”)里的销售人员称,全国各地的富人都到这里来参观光芒四射的Model S。当他们听到118,000美元的价格时,几乎都是同样的反应:“哇!”

    潜台词是:哇!真便宜。

    特斯拉公司高管表示,在未来几年内,中国将成为它最大的市场,特斯拉汽车公司应该抓住这个机遇。所以,特斯拉计划在2014年底在中国另外十多个城市开店,还计划在中国投资数千万美元。事实上,特斯拉要想实现今年Model S销量增长56%的目标,中国将是主要的推动力。

    虽然25%的进口关税和增值税将Model S的价格从在美国的71,000美元推高到了118,000美元,但中国消费者却认为这款汽车算不上超级昂贵。很大程度上,这是因为其他汽车品牌也要接受同样的课税。例如,在中国,宝马(BMW)X5 SUV的价格要高于特斯拉汽车;而在美国,前者的价格却更低。

    在中国,特斯拉真正的出路在于能否实现国产化。如果可行,特斯拉不仅可以避开沉重的进口关税,而且客户还可以享受地方政府的机动车税收减免优惠,因为这项优惠政策不面向进口汽车。特斯拉创始人埃隆•穆斯克上个月访问北京期间列举了特斯拉的希望和潜在风险。他表示,在三至四年时间内,公司会努力在中国实现特斯拉汽车国产化。

    最梦幻的情形是,特斯拉在中国生产汽车,所有人都来购买他们的汽车,而中央政府也很满意,因为更多人在使用电动车,然后,特斯拉在几十年内占据中国汽车销量榜首。

    但在现实中,穆斯克的野心将面临重重障碍。外国公司往往会发现,在中国本土生产自己的产品并不容易。他们必须与一家当地中国公司合作,而后者通常想要染指“老外”的技术。在合资公司中,政治权力往往要压过控股权。此外,中国对于外国人有着根深蒂固的不信任。

    中国外企专家、《十亿消费者:博弈中国市场的第一手经验》(One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China)一书的作者麦健陆说:“外国公司雄心勃勃地乘兴而来,期待在短期内就能实现自己的抱负,结果却一次次地铩羽而归。”

    特斯拉在中国将面临两个巨大的障碍。首先是与中国国内公司成立合资公司生产汽车。特斯拉的目标很可能会跟它中国合作伙伴相差甚远。2006年,中国发布了一份冗长的报告,名为《国家中长期科学和技术发展规划纲要 (2006━2020年)》(The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for the Development of Science and Technology 2006-2020)”。报告中提出了发展“自主创新”的计划纲要,以及至2020年将中国建设成科技强国的目标。而要与西方科技相匹敌,关键的一条途径是:吸收和再创新外国的科技。

    2010年,麦健陆在针对这份报告的文章中写道:“许多跨国科技公司都认为,这个规划是制定了技术抄袭的蓝图,规模之大前所未见。”

    大家可以想象这样一个场景:中国公司开始模仿特斯拉的电池创新,然后以远低于特斯拉汽车的售价销售他们自己生产的汽车。到那时,特斯拉将无计可施。

    特斯拉面临的第二大障碍是在中国与国有电力公司合作兴建充电网络。穆斯克在谈论潜在合作伙伴时,透露了中国最大的两家电力公司,这一点当然并不出人意料之外。但中国可能不会像特斯拉一样,热衷于建设充电站。如果中国国内的电动汽车制造商获得了优先权,特斯拉该怎么办?特斯拉愿意在中国投资多少钱来冒险?

    麦健陆谈到穆斯克时说:“困难程度和耗费的时间之长将远远超出他的预期。他是否具备解决这些难题的管理能力、耐心和资本?他首先应该思考一下这个问题。”

    中国热烈欢迎特斯拉的到来,这应该也没人会觉得意外。穆斯克在访问中国期间先后会见了多位政府高官和上海当地的政界人士。特斯拉在全球汽车市场上只是规模相对较小的一家公司,这样的接待可谓高规格。会见之所以能够举行,很大程度上是因为中国需要电动汽车,而它距离截至2020年实现500万辆电动汽车的目标仍有相当大的差距。北京最近一次车牌摇号中,电动汽车的申请人数量甚至连最低水平线都没有达到,而普通汽油汽车争抢1个号牌的人数则多达90人。

    特斯拉并不回避面临的挑战。特斯拉在中国的发言人佩吉•杨说:“几乎所有人都希望我们能披露我们与政府之间的谈判,潜在的合资公司,在哪里建设超级充电站等,而对于我们而言,现在的关键是我们正在为此努力。至于我们接下来会做什么,目前尚无具体计划。”

    当然,只关注特斯拉所面临的挑战有失公允。特斯拉第一款汽车推出之前以及开始兴建充电网络之前,穆斯克在美国也曾面临几乎同样多的挑战。但在中国本土生产汽车将产生一些独特的难题,即便像特斯拉这样大胆的成功公司也不可避免。

    在北京的展厅内,销售人员正在解释Model S采用空气动力学设计的车门把手。为了减少风阻,门把手可自动隐藏。他触碰驾驶员侧边手柄,想让把手伸出,结果没有反应。他咧嘴一笑道:“好吧,失灵了。”他又试了一遍,车门把手终于缓缓伸出来。

    不过,这或许只是特斯拉在中国面临的最微不足道的问题。(财富中文网)

    译者:刘进龙/汪皓

    The salesman in Tesla's only showroom in Chinese mainland (or what the company likes to call "experience center") says the rich people who travel from all over the country to see the gleaming Model S react the same way when they hear the $118,000 price tag: "Wow."

    As in: Wow! That's cheap.

    This is the opportunity Tesla Motors (TSLA) hopes to capitalize on when its executives say China will become its largest market in just a couple years. It's why the company plans to open stores in a dozen other cities by the end of 2014 and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the country. In fact, China is the driving force behind Tesla's goal of boosting Model S sales by 56% this year.

    Even with a 25% import fee and value-added taxes pushing the cost to about $118,000 in China, from $71,000 in the U.S., the car isn't considered super-expensive. That's in part because other car brands are subject to the same levies. And so BMW's X5 SUV, for example, costs much more than a Tesla in China despite selling for less than one in the U.S.

    The real promise for Tesla in China is if it can build cars here. Not only would it bypass the hefty import duty, but its customers would become eligible for local governments' electric vehicle tax credits, an incentive not offered for foreign-built autos. In a visit to Beijing last month, Tesla's founder Elon Musk laid out both the promise and potential pitfalls for Tesla when he said the company would seek to manufacture cars in China in three to four years.

    The dream scenario is that Tesla builds cars, everybody buys them, the central government is happy that more people are driving electric, and Tesla is championed for decades.

    But in reality, Musk's ambition will face many hurdles. Foreign companies typically find that building their own stuff in China is never easy. They're forced to partner with a local Chinese company, which often wants to get its hands on the outsider's technology. In a joint venture, political power often trumps controlling stakes. Furthermore, China is a country with deep-seated suspicions of foreigners.

    "Time after time, when foreign companies have come here with huge ambitions and a short timeline in obtaining them, it doesn't work out," says James McGregor, an expert on foreign businesses in China and author of One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China.

    Tesla faces two gigantic hurdles in China. The first is setting up a joint venture with a domestic company to build cars. Tesla's goals will likely be very different from its Chinese partner's. China released a long report in 2006 called "The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for the Development of Science and Technology 2006-2020" that outlines the country's plan to develop "indigenous innovation" and make China a technological powerhouse by 2020. One key way it plans to match Western technology: absorbing and tweaking that same foreign technology.

    As McGregor wrote in a 2010 paper on the report, "The plan is considered by many international technology companies to be a blueprint for technology theft on a scale the world has never seen before."

    You can imagine a scenario where Chinese companies start emulating Tesla's battery innovations and then sell their vehicles for much less than Tesla's sticker price. Tesla would likely have little recourse.

    The second hurdle Tesla faces is building a charging network in China with state-owned power companies. It wasn't an accident that Musk dropped the names of two of China's biggest power companies when he was talking about potential partners. But again, China is unlikely to share Tesla's exact interests in building charging stations. What happens when priority is given to domestic electric automakers? How many hundreds of millions is Tesla willing to risk in China?

    "This is likely to be much much harder, and take a lot longer, than he expects," says McGregor, of Musk. "Does he have the management capacity, the patience, and the capital to handle that? That's a question he should be asking himself."

    It should be no surprise that China is welcoming Tesla with open arms. On his trip to the country, Musk met with top government level officials and local Shanghai politicians—a big reception for a relatively small player in the global automotive scene. The meetings happened in part because China clearly needs electric cars and it's woefully behind its goal of putting 5 million on the road by 2020. In Beijing's latest lottery round for license plates, the number of applicants for electric vehicles didn't even meet the limit while regular gasoline plates were oversubscribed by 90 to 1.

    Tesla is pretty straightforward about the wall of challenges it faces. "As much as everyone is hoping we'd disclose negotiations with governments, potential joint ventures, where we're building supercharging stations, the key thing for us is that we're working on it," says Peggy Yang, Tesla's spokesperson in China. " I don't have very concrete plans to lay down to say by June we'll have this, by July we'll have this."

    It's unfair to focus only on Tesla's challenges. Musk faced almost as many in the U.S. before Tesla came out with its first model, and again before building a charging network. But building goods in China creates unique headaches, even for a company as daring and successful as Tesla.

    Back in the Beijing showroom, the salesperson is explaining the Model S's aerodynamic door handles, which retract to reduce drag. He touches the driver's side handle to extend it. Nothing happens. "Okay, not working," he grins. He tries again and it slides out.

    It may have been the smallest problem Tesla ever faces in China.

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