Elon Musk has marked down models or introduced cheaper versions of his EVs each of the last three days.
(Bloomberg) — For months, Elon Musk has pinned much of the blame for Tesla Inc.’s price cuts on central banks.
Now, he’s discounting in one of its most important markets even as monetary policy becomes more accommodative.
The People’s Bank of China unexpectedly lowered a key interest rate by the most since 2020 on Tuesday, the second reduction since June. The day before that surprise move, Tesla marked down multiple versions of the Model Y sport utility vehicle in China. The day after, the company cut prices of Model S sedans and Model X SUVs in inventory.
Tesla’s chief executive officer has repeatedly pointed the finger at costlier borrowing as Tesla has brought down the prices of its vehicles this year. He’s been particularly critical of the Federal Reserve, which resumed interest-rate hikes last month after a pause in June.
Sure enough, the cost of Teslas continue to drop in the US. On Tuesday, the company introduced new lower-range iterations of the Model S and X that are $10,000 cheaper than previous base versions of the vehicles.
But the moves Tesla is making in China suggest there’s potential for the company to have to keep bringing down the cost of its vehicles for reasons other than interest rates.
The country’s central bank acted shortly before the release of disappointing economic data for July. On Wednesday, the PBOC took further measures to shore up the financial system, injecting the largest amount of short-term cash since February. Renewed concerns about China’s property sector and shadow banking system have sparked a selloff across assets.
Tesla’s discounting may well reinforce this gloom. Musk said during an earnings call last month that he believed the company possessed a unique ability among carmakers to track how demand is trending, describing an auto-generated email he receives daily.
“It’s like a real-time finger on the pulse of Earth,” he said. “We adjust course according to what the mood of the public is. Buying a new car is a big decision for the vast majority of people, so anytime there is economic uncertainty, people generally pause on new-car buying at least to see what happens.”
Tesla is expected to have fresh product soon that could help lure consumers off the sidelines. Musk has said production will dip this quarter because of downtime for factory upgrades, and the company’s Shanghai plant has been preparing to make an updated version of the Model 3 sedan.
The spate of price cuts on other vehicles only raise the stakes for that refresh. It may need to be a hit in order for Tesla to overcome conditions its CEO has complained have been difficult to predict.
“One day, it seems like the world economy is falling apart, and the next day, everything’s fine,” Musk said last month. “I don’t know what the hell is going on, to be totally frank.”
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