Tesla Declines as CEO Musk Says Sales Have Dropped in China

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Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. slumped in late trading after Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said sales were unexpectedly weak in China in the fourth quarter.

Tesla fell as much as 8 percent to $188 after the close in New York.

Musk, speaking today at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, said sales have declined in China in recent months because of concerns over charging its electric vehicles. Tesla started delivering Model S sedans in China in April 2014 and Musk has said he expects to start building cars in the nation within three to four years.

“China is a small percentage of our sales right now,” Musk said in an interview Jan. 12, describing the market as “a wild card that seems to change for reasons we don’t understand.”

The Palo Alto, California-based carmaker has nine stores and service centers in six Chinese cities and has tied up with companies including China Unicom and Soho China Ltd. to build charging stations in the country. It has 700 power points in 70 cities across China, making it the market with the biggest network after the U.S., Tesla has said.

The CEO was reiterating comments he made Jan. 12 in an interview with Bloomberg News, where he also said Tesla has seen demand increase in the U.S. and Europe. Musk said he’s confident Tesla will see demand for 100,000 cars a year, giving the company $10 billion in annual sales.

Tesla shares have appreciated more than 45 percent in the past year, outperforming the auto industry. In November, the company cut its full-year 2014 sales forecast to 33,000 cars from 35,000, saying it couldn’t produce the higher number.

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