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更新时间:2015-3-6 8:47:35 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Tesla's China Business Faces Varied Challenges

BEIJING — For $104,000, Yu Hangmei expected a car that could, at the very least, be driven. What Ms. Yu said she got instead was a new electric Tesla Model S sedan and a malfunctioning charging station.

北京——俞韩梅原本以为,花了65万元人民币,买到的车至少应该能开。不过,俞女士表示,自己得到的是一辆崭新的特斯拉Model S电动轿车,以及一根不能用的充电桩。

While driving through her town in coastal Zhejiang Province recently, Ms. Yu, 45, realized that even though she had plugged in the vehicle, the battery was almost dead. “I thought after a day of charging it was fully charged, but turns out it wasn’t charged at all,” said Ms. Yu, an artifact exporter. Tesla owners need an electric charger specifically calibrated to the vehicle’s voltage and current requirements, still something of a rarity near her home. “Luckily I bumped into a fellow Tesla owner online who let me charge at his place. It took three hours.”


Tesla owners in China are a well-connected bunch. Not only do they tend to be wealthy, but their avid use of social media means word of such car problems can spread in minutes. And finding charging stations is a regular complaint.


It is proving to be a major issue for Tesla’s grand designs in the world’s largest auto market.


China would seem to have all the right ingredients for Tesla, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif. The country has the second-highest number of millionaires worldwide, after the United States. And the government sees electric vehicles as a tool for fixing the nation’s notorious smog problem.


But the company has stumbled in China as it tried to attract customers. Worries about charging infrastructure and an official bias toward bolstering homegrown competition may have contributed to the company’s lackluster Chinese performance last year, which ended with the resignation of Tesla’s China president.


China is expected to be a trouble spot in Tesla's earnings, which the company is set to report on Wednesday. Speaking in Detroit last month, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, acknowledged that sales in China were “unexpectedly weak” at the end of 2014. He blamed a “misperception about charging,” saying owners worried they would not be able to power up their vehicles at home.

公司定于周三公布财报,预计中国业务将成为其中拖后腿的部分。上个月在底特律讲话时,特斯拉的首席执行官埃隆·马斯克(Elon Musk)承认,截至2014年底在中国取得的销售额“出乎预料地疲软”。他将其归咎于“有关充电的误解”,称车主们担心不能在家充电。

Tesla is racing to get on Chinese maps. Since the carmaker began delivering its Model S sedans to China last April, it has built 52 free rapid Supercharger stations in 20 cities and set up about 800 other charging stations at malls, hotels and restaurants in over 70 cities. The Supercharger stations fully charge a car in about an hour.

特斯拉在争分夺秒地抢滩中国市场。自从去年4月开始向中国用户交付Model S电动轿车以来,特斯拉已在20座城市兴建了52座能提供免费快充服务的超级充电站,还在逾70座城市的商场、酒店和餐厅设立了大约800根充电桩。超级充电站可以在一小时左右的时间里为一辆车充满电。

There are now nine stores and service centers in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, which is already one of Tesla’s highest grossing stores worldwide, the company reported in its third-quarter 2014 shareholder letter. The United States has over 60 Tesla stores and more than 40 service centers.


“In the past few months, Tesla has made great progress in China,” the company’s China office said in an email.

“在进入中国的半年时间里,特斯拉的发展取得了诸多成绩 ,”公司的中国办公室在邮件中这样写道。

But the results have been tepid. So far, Tesla has exported around 3,500 cars to China, missing the company’s sales goal of 5,000 in the country, which accounts for 30 percent of its global target. Over all, some 80,000 electric and hybrid vehicles were sold in the country last year, according to Yale Zhang, the managing director of Automotive Foresight, a consulting firm in Shanghai.

不过,它的业绩并不亮眼。迄今为止,特斯拉向中国的出口量为3500辆左右,未能达到为这一市场设立的5000辆销售目标——这一数字占到公司全球目标的30%。上海咨询公司汽车市场预测(Automotive Foresight)的总监张豫(Yale Zhang)表示,电动车与混合动力车加起来,去年在中国市场总共售出了大概8万辆。

The Chinese government aims to put half a million electric cars or plug-in hybrids on the roads by this year and five million by 2020. To encourage drivers to go green, domestic electric cars receive a combined subsidy from the central and local governments of 120,000 renminbi, or about $19,000. While Tesla owners are not eligible for those subsidies because the cars are foreign-made, the city of Shanghai offers free license plates for all electric car brands, saving drivers around $12,000 in fees. These include 400 Tesla owners who received the plates in October.


However, given the six-figure price tag — compared with $70,000 in the United States — the lack of subsidies is not a dealbreaker for Chinese Tesla owners. “Frankly, it really makes no difference to the people who can afford a Tesla,” Mr. Zhang said. “Tesla has succeeded not as a popular model but by being perceived as a rich person’s toy.”


A bigger concern for them is where to charge their vehicles. Unlike car owners in the United States, many of whom live in houses with a garage, the majority of Chinese urban housing consists of low-rise multifamily units. Thus, installing residential charging facilities means negotiating with property managers or neighbors.


Xie Yujian, 39, the owner of an international trading company in coastal Hangzhou, parks four of his cars at his apartment garage but had the Tesla charger installed at his factory. “I heard you have to apply with the property company to get that type of wiring so I just couldn’t be bothered,” he said.


Mr. Xie enjoys taking his Tesla on short trips, though not the wait that comes with recharging. In Hangzhou, it takes him two to three hours total for supercharging, including the journey, he said. “I think this is probably one of the biggest challenges Tesla has to overcome.”


Tesla is hampered by concerns over its relatively tiny charging network compared with traditional gas stations or charging stations in overseas markets. While China has 52 free Supercharger stations, it lags Europe, which has over 120, as well as the United States, home to more than 150.


“It will take time to build out a comprehensive charging infrastructure across the whole country,” Tesla’s China office said.


In addition to building more Supercharger stations, Tesla plans to deliver to China high-power wall chargers for home use in the first half of this year. These will reduce the time it takes to achieve a full charge — which lasts 310 miles — to five hours, from 10.


But current drivers have already found a workaround of sorts for their charging needs. Hundreds of Tesla owners are members of group chats on the popular social messaging platforms QQ and Weixin, which they use to talk shop, share complaints with upper management and arrange to charge their cars at one another’s homes. They call it “stealing electricity.”


Xiao Zufu, 44, who works in brand sales, needed to do just that on a recent trip from his home in Zhejiang Province to Shanghai, about 380 kilometers or 236 miles away. In an unfamiliar town and his battery down to about 60 kilometers of charge left, he used QQ to find a fellow Tesla owner nearby who let him charge his battery.


“It was a bit embarrassing,” he said. “If I’m driving a diesel car, even if the light has turned yellow I’m confident there’s still about 50 kilometers left in the car. But with electric cars I don’t really know for sure.”


Still, most Tesla drivers appear to be forgiving of the company’s growing pains, particularly those among China’s equivalent of Silicon Valley. “We chose to be lab rats,” said Chen Zhong, 32, the chief marketing officer of an online media company in Beijing who bought a Tesla Model S last year. For these early adopters with money to spend, the car symbolizes the high-tech culture they adore. “The first time I drove it I thought I was driving an iPad.” Owning a Tesla, he added, “makes us Internet technology people feel superior.”

但大部分特斯拉司机,似乎都原谅了该公司给人带来的日渐增多的麻烦,特别是相当于中国的硅谷一族的那些人。“我们选择了当小白鼠,”32岁的陈中说。去年,在北京一家网络媒体公司担任首席市场官的他买了一辆特斯拉Model S。对于这些较早购买特斯拉的多金人士而言,这款车象征着他们所崇尚的高科技文化。“第一次开的时候,我感觉开的是一台iPad。”他还说,有一辆特斯拉“让我们互联网技术人感到高人一等”。