Elon Musk says Chinese EV makers will ‘pretty much demolish’ most competitors without trade barriers


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Elon Musk speaks onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center on November 29, 2023 in New York City. 
Slaven Vlasic | Getty Images

Elon Musk said Chinese electric automakers will find “significant” success outside of China, even as his firm Tesla faces intense competition from these same companies.

“The Chinese car companies are the most competitive car companies in the world. So, I think they will have significant success outside of China depending on what kind of tariffs or trade barriers are established,” Musk said on Tesla’s earnings call on Wednesday.

“Frankly, I think, if there are not trade barriers established, they will pretty much demolish most other companies in the world.”

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, is currently investigating subsidies given to electric vehicle makers in China. That probe began last year and has yet to be concluded. But there is a chance the EU could consider higher tariffs on Chinese EVs, at a time when they are expanding aggressively into Europe.

BYD, which sold more battery-powered cars than Tesla in the fourth quarter, has expanded sales to markets in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Chinese start-ups including Nio and Xpeng, have also launched their cars in Europe.

Chinese EV makers showed off their wares at one of Europe’s biggest auto shows last year. At the time, analysts said that these companies could pose a challenge to traditional auto firms.

It’s not the first time Musk has heaped praise on Chinese EV makers. Last year, the billionaire called Chinese EV firms “the most competitive in the world” and said they are likely to be among the world’s top auto companies.

“If I were to guess … probably some company out of China is the most likely to be second to Tesla,” Musk said.

Tesla’s own shares slid in pre-market trade on Thursday, after the company posted earnings that missed expectations and warned of a slowdown in 2024.

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