November 27, 2018 / 5:57 PM / 15 days ago

Auto group says Tesla's China sales plunge; company's shares slide

FILE PHOTO: A man finishes charging his Tesla car at a charging point outside Tesla China headquarters in Beijing, China July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Tesla Inc’s vehicle sales in China sank 70 percent last month from a year ago, the country’s passenger car association told Reuters on Tuesday, underscoring how the Sino-U.S. trade war is hurting the U.S. electric carmaker.

Tesla’s share price fell 1.8 percent on Tuesday morning following the report which came out during the Asian business day. Hours later, the company responded from its headquarters in California, calling the industry group’s report “wildly inaccurate.”

An official from China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said data from the industry body showed Tesla sold just 211 cars in the world’s largest auto market in October.

Tesla representatives in China did not respond to repeated calls and written requests for comment during the Asia work day. Later, a California-based spokesman issued a written statement saying Tesla disputed the CPCA’s data, but he did not provide internal sales figures.

“This is wildly inaccurate. While we do not disclose regional or monthly sales numbers, these figures are off by a significant margin,” he said in the statement.

The electric carmaker, which imports all the cars it sells in China, said in October that tariff hikes on auto imports were hammering its sales there. In July, Beijing raised tariffs on imports of U.S. autos to 40 percent amid a worsening trade standoff with the United States.

While so-called new-energy vehicle sales have continued to climb in China, wider auto sales have slowed sharply since the middle of the year, taking the market to the brink of its first annual sales contraction in almost three decades.

Tesla, led by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, said last week it was cutting the price of its Model X and Model S cars in China in a shift in strategy to make the cars “more affordable” and absorb more of the hit from higher tariffs.

Tesla recently secured the site for its first overseas factory in Shanghai that will help it avoid the steep tariffs.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Himani Sarkar and David Gregorio

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