Elon Musk breaks ground on the first Tesla factory outside the U.S.

It’s really happening for Tesla in China, with company boss Elon Musk breaking ground at a new manufacturing plant in Shanghai on Monday, January 7 — its first such facility outside of the U.S.

The company’s third so-called “Gigafactory” will assemble Tesla’s mass-market electric Model 3 vehicle, as well as the upcoming Model Y, as part of its first serious push into the world’s biggest — and fastest-growing — market for electric cars. The facility is scheduled to begin production of the Model 3 toward the end of the year, with the Model Y following soon after.

“China is becoming the global leader in electric vehicle adoption, and it is a market that is critical to Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” Musk said in a statement. “Gigafactory 3 is another example of Tesla’s commitment to the China market.”

The Tesla CEO was in China to break ground on the new factory. Photos (below) showed the Tesla CEO alongside various local officials, among them Shanghai mayor Ying Yong. Shanghai’s local government described Tesla’s arrival as the largest foreign manufacturing project in the city’s history.

In a series of tweets posted shortly before the event, Musk said Gigafactory 3 will produce “affordable versions” of the Model 3 for the Chinese market. The current base price of the Model 3 for U.S. customers is $35,000.

Tesla’s more expensive Model S and X vehicles, as well as higher-cost versions of the 3 and Y, will continue to be built in the U.S. and exported to China and other markets, Musk said.

If the trade war between the U.S. and China continues, manufacturing vehicles in the Asian nation will enable Tesla to reduce costs from tariffs, as well as ocean transport — vital if the company is to have any chance of taking on Chinese makers of electric cars. And with China planning to phase out gas and diesel vehicles as part of efforts to clean up its polluted cities, the market is a lucrative one for those with the most attractive offerings.

Talk of Tesla setting up shop in China had been doing the rounds for several years, with an agreement finally struck between the company and Shanghai officials in the summer of 2018.

For an interesting look at how a Tesla Model 3 is put together, check out this time-lapse showing the vehicle being assembled from start to finish. The process comprises 40 different steps that are accomplished in 90 minutes, though the video will only take up 48 seconds of your time.

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