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Tesla delivers 1st China cars and plans expansion deep into the mainland

BEIJING -- Tesla Motors Inc. delivered its first eight electric sedans to customers in China on Tuesday and CEO Elon Musk said the company will build a nationwide network of charging stations and service centers as fast as it can.

Tesla probably will invest several hundred million dollars in charging infrastructure in China, Musk told reporters. He said it will open several hundred service centers.

“My instructions to the team are to spend money as fast as they can spend it without wasting it,” he said.

The Palo Alto, California, company previously announced a US$121,000 sticker price for its Model S in China. It said import taxes and shipping account for the difference with its U.S. price tag of US$81,000.

Customers received the first Model S sedans at a brief ceremony at Tesla's office in a Beijing industrial park, also the site of its first Chinese charging station.

“I'm incredibly appreciative of customers like you for taking a chance on a new product from a new company,” Musk told them. “Without customers like you, we would have no chance.”

Chinese leaders want to develop an electric car industry and called in 2009 for annual sales of 500,000 electric cars by 2015 but have scaled back those plans. Industry growth has been slow partly due to rules that limit market access unless foreign manufacturers share technology with Chinese partners that might become rivals.

Tesla hopes to partner with China's state-owned power monopolies, State Grid and Southern Grid, to operate charging stations, but no “serious discussions” have begun, Musk said. He said the car can be charged from a wall socket but the charging stations speed up the process.

The stations will have solar panels, but Musk said that was meant to show vehicles can run without power generated from coal rather than to make them independent of utility companies. He said charging stations will be built both in cities and between them to facilitate long-distance travel.

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Customers and journalists examine a Tesla Model S sedan at an event in Beijing, China, Tuesday, April 22. (AP)

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