Elon Musk admits China is a tough EV nut to crack

Tesla CEO Tempers Expectations For China

China has sold a few hundred thousand EVs a year for the past three years or so and it is estimated that over 300,000 electric vehicles will be sold there in 2016. But only 5,000 of them will be from Tesla. The low bar was set by Elon Musk this week during a visit to Hong Kong.

Now, Musk was bullish on the idea of Hong Kong as a haven for EVs in general, calling it a "leading city in the world for electric cars," with more EVs per capita than any other city. This means that Tesla will have to figure out how to get more people into more Superchargers in less space. Musk seemed amused by the challenge. According to Teslarati, 80 percent of the EVs sold in Hong Kong last year were Model S EVs. Tesla sold 2,221 of them in Hong Kong last year.

But when it comes to the Chinese mainland, things are less rosy. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Tesla says it sold 3,025 cars in China in the first nine months of 2015, despite aggressive pricing. That's well under the company's original 10,000-unit target. Musk was not happy with low sales numbers in early 2015, and has now scaled back his expectations for 2016 to just 5,000 units. Things should turn around if Tesla opens up a its planned production facility in China.

You can watch Musk speak to fans and customers in Hong Kong in the video above. The China-specific stuff starts at about 6:15. Does it bother anyone else as much as it does me the way people cheer for him sometimes? Well, there's a lot of it here, so if you don't like the noisy fan club, then don't watch this video. The Q&A gets cut off, so we've included a complete version below, but one that has worse audio. We've also included Musk's interview with CNN's Kristi Lu Stout. Note how he doesn't talk smack about GM's upcoming Chevy Bolt, despite the opening Stout offered him.

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