Want to buy a Tesla whats-its-name?

Updated: 2013-12-26 06:19

By CHEN JIA in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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Unlike many international luxury brands' strategy to expand into China's second-tier cities, Silicon Valley-based electric carmaker Tesla says its growth in 2014 will focus on opening more showrooms in the country's first-tier cities.

"We have great expectations for the market in China, and opening showrooms in more first-tier cities would be the major way that Tesla approaches rich buyers across the country," Veronica Wu, vice-president for China at Tesla Motors, told Chinese media recently.

"Our challenge is how to satisfy the high demand in China," she told Chinese web portal 163.com.

Hundreds of high-end Tesla electric cars have been ordered or pre-ordered in China in the two months since the carmaker opened its first showroom to the public in Beijing in November.

Even though the company has yet to establish electric vehicle charging stations throughout the country, Chinese buyers jumped at the opportunity to lay down 250,000 yuan deposits for one of two available models — the S and the X, which have also been available for online order since Dec 14.

As a former general manager of education and enterprise of Apple's operation in Asia, Wu assumed her new post at Tesla three weeks ago. Immigrating to the US at the age of 14, Wu studied at UC-Berkeley and Yale, the report said.

Wu said Tesla currently had more than 20 staff members in China and talent recruitment will be on her 2014 work agenda.

Meanwhile, Tesla still hasn't given its brand an appropriate Chinese name.

A well-known translation of Tuo Su Le has been criticized by Chinese netizens as too narrow-minded to represent the brand value of an environmentally friendly luxury car.

Tuo Su Le actually combines three Chinese words: Tuo, which means expand, su indicates speed and le embodies happiness.

But its various harmonics of Chinese pronunciation could be also interpreted as "free from vulgarity" or "refined", which makes buyers think of the Beverly Hillbillies, goes some buzz online.

Te Si La, the accurate translation for Tesla's Chinese pronunciation, has been registered since 2006 by local businessman Zhan Baoshen, who refuses to give up the trademark.

A recent report by Reuters said Tesla has other problems in China. In a letter to clients, it said that the price of Model S is not determined yet because China has not decided on its tax policies regarding imported electric cars.

Facing the competition triggered by Tesla, China's leading new-energy carmaker BYD Auto also launched a new plug-in hybrid in Beijing last week.

Called Qin, it is a dual-mode model designed with a capacity to run 70 km on a single charge under all-electric mode, Hou Yan, general manager of the company's sales unit, told Xinhua.

Compared to Tesla, BYD highlights its advantage that the Qin's battery can be charged at home using common electric power. Also, the mileage is enough to accommodate the travel needs of life in the cities.

When the battery is flat, the vehicle can automatically switch to run on gas, which makes longer journeys possible, Hou told Xinhua.