Tesla sets up new firm within Shanghai Free Trade Zone

A Tesla Model S is charged outside the company's Shanghai showroom in on Sept. 12

Last week the automaker registered a new electric auto firm in Shanghai, China, according to a filing with the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System.

According to Chinese finance media outlet Yicai (link in Chinese), a May 10 registration for a company named Tesla Shanghai Co.

It was not clear if the new firm was related to the anticipated Shanghai plant. There was no formal announcement by Tesla, which has declined to comment.

Apparently contradicting the speculation in United States media reports, however, Chinese news outlet Sina claims Tesla's Shanghai entity is focused on import/export and technology development instead of vehicle manufacturing.

Tesla sold 17,000 vehicles on the mainland a year ago, up 51.6 per cent from 2016, according to the China Automobile Dealers Association. "Tesla is still inarguably the leader in electric cars, and its locally-built cars will attract more buyers".

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As China readies to end limits on foreign factory ownership, Tesla is looking to expand its footprint into the world's biggest market for electric vehicles.

The company, registered in Shanghai's free trade zone area, lists Tesla's China head Zhu Xiaotong as its legal representative and Tesla Motors HK Limited as its only shareholder.

Musk has been critical of China's tough rules for foreign businesses, saying they created an uneven playing field.

The move follows an earlier report that Tesla would unveil the location of a new Chinese "Gigafactory" as early as next quarter.

Beijing has set an ambitious target, whereby new-energy vehicles will account for a fifth of total sales by 2025.

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