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Tesla’s strategy may finally succeed in China

Tesla Model S China Sales

In every country around the world where the Tesla Model S is sold, demand far outstrips supply. That is, every country except one. The lone outlier is China, where Model S have been wildly disappointing and way below both analyst and Tesla’s expectations. Recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained that part of the problem was that he was “misled” by Chinese speculators who ordered cars but never ended up buying one.

Compounding the problem is that Tesla appears to have completely misread Chinese culture as it pertains to luxury automobiles, a problem it’s already begun fixing.

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In China, owners of luxury vehicles often prefer to be chauffeured around while they sit and relax in the backseat. That’s all well and good until one realizes that the backseat on the Model S isn’t exactly something to write home about. For as great a car as the Model S is, most of vehicle’s perks either lie in its performance or in the front seat.

As a result, Tesla is already taking steps to offer a more luxurious Model S backseat to interested buyers, according to a recent report in Bloomberg.

Based on customer feedback, Tesla introduced “executive rear seats” as a $2,000 option. Leather-wrapped, they include two zone heaters; passengers also can use a smartphone to control media, climate and panoramic roof settings.

“We know Chinese customers like to be driven so they want something a little plusher,” said Dan Hsu, who runs Tesla’s China training program and manages a Shanghai store and one other. “That’s one of the benefits of our direct-sales method. We can react much faster to these types of requests.”

Whether or not this helps provide a boost to Model S sales in China remains to be seen. As the Bloomberg article lays out, there are a number of problems Tesla has encountered in China, from quelling concerns about range anxiety to the simple fact that much of China’s dense urban city layout isn’t conducive to personal electric cars.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.