Tesla staring down 40,000 lost EVs due to Shanghai lockdown | Tech News

Tesla staring down 40,000 lost EVs due to Shanghai lockdown

For the first time, Tesla Inc. has hit a real production snag in China.

| Updated on: Aug 22 2022, 11:42 IST
Shanghai’s lockdown forced Tesla to halt production in late March. (AFP)

For the first time, Tesla Inc. has hit a real production snag in China. The electric carmaker's Shanghai plant, its first outside the U.S., has had output suspended for almost three weeks due to city-wide lockdowns in China's financial heart. At a run rate of about 2,100 cars a day, that's around 39,900 units lost since the lines fell silent on March 28.

There are few signs as to when the situation might change. The city of 25 million is posting record Covid-19 cases almost daily and much of the city remains under restrictions of movements with ongoing disruptions to food and manufacturing supply chains.

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All Chinese automakers may have to halt production in May if shutdowns persist in the Shanghai area, according to He Xiaopeng, chief executive officer of electric-vehicle firm Xpeng Inc. The lockdown, now in its third week, has battered the economy and stalled production, prompting Premier Li Keqiang to warn about economic-growth risks multiple times.

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“If supply chain companies could not find a way to resume operation and production, it's likely all Chinese OEMs may have to suspend production in May,” He posted on his personal WeChat and Weibo accounts Thursday evening, referring to automakers. 

“Our base case estimate for reopening is the first week in May,” Junheng Li, founder and CEO of JL Warren Capital, an equity-research firm focused on Chinese companies, said of Tesla. Under that scenario, she estimated that some 84,000 units may be lost. 

Li said Tesla's production losses may be even steeper if surrounding cities were to be locked down too, potentially impacting the supply of auto parts to the factory. The plant's reopening may also be done in sequenced stages and capacity after any resumption will “depend on the supply of components Tesla can get.” 

Austin, Texas-based Tesla made 305,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter globally, so a loss of around 40,000 cars is about 13% of that. Its Shanghai factory on the eastern outskirts of the city makes the Model 3 and the Model Y for both export and domestic consumption.

The plant typically produces roughly 2,000 cars every day, based on losses seen during the first quarter, according to an estimate earlier this month by Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc.

Shanghai's lockdown forced Tesla to halt production in late March. The carmaker has begun canvassing some staff to see whether it's possible to operate under a so-called closed loop system, were they able to leave their apartments, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Some other big manufacturers including Volkswagen AG and Robert Bosch GmbH have moved to a version of the loop system, whereby workers live on-site and are tested regularly. It hasn't particularly worked out for VW in Shanghai, with locked-in workers unable to produce cars anyway due to a lack of parts coming into the factory.

“China's insistence on Zero Covid has caused, and will cause, more multinationals to rethink their strategies in China,” Li said. “As long as Covid mutations continue, and China doesn't give up on Covid-Zero, I believe that they will cut or halt their expansion plans in the country,” she said, with reference to companies in general rather than Tesla specifically.

Tesla's Shanghai factory churned out 182,174 vehicles in the first quarter, China Passenger Car Association data show. Since the production lines first fired up in late 2019, this most recent production hiatus has been the longest -- worse than when Covid first hit in 2020 and much worse than the odd chip shortage that has forced two- or three-day suspensions in past months.

The factory usually runs for six or seven days a week over three shifts, depending on maintenance arrangements. And ramping production back up from a shutdown isn't an instant process.

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First Published Date: 15 Apr, 19:03 IST