Tesla city car sketched for a recruitment ad in China

California company wants to put Chinese thought into Chinese cars

When Tesla announced the opening of a Chinese R&D and design center earlier this month, the company also put out advertisements on its official WeChat account to recruit designers. The posters for recruiting car designers featured illustrations of four vehicles, two of which look like the Model 3, one of which is the Model S. The fourth drawing was the one above, said to be a concept sketch for a Tesla city car. Tesla's out to make "Chinese-style" vehicles, and as Teslarati notes, the text on the ads read, in part, "Tesla is waiting for you. Chinese-Style Tesla will sweep the world." A Reuters translation showed the text going even further, with, "In order to achieve a shift of 'Made in China' to 'Designed in China,' Tesla's CEO Elon Musk has proposed a very cool thing — set up a design and research center in China." The grayscale render is presumably what a Chinese-market vehicle could look like. Or not.

It's all Tesla in front, with a blunt, lightly scalloped nose and stretched headlights. After the B-pillar, due to truncated proportions and a rainbow-arc greenhouse, it reminds us of a burly version of the first-generation Ford Ka, a city car Ford produced for Europe and Latin America starting in 1996. Musk said at the company's annual shareholder meeting in 2018, "I think we’ll do a compact car in less than five years," and now would be the time to begin working on it if that timeline still holds.

Something that comes out of the China design studio has a chance at being a global car — but let's be clear, none of the studio products might look like the sketch. The Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai has a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year at the moment, so much of that capacity to be sponged up by the Model 3 and Model Y. Yet during the opening ceremony, Musk said Tesla would "design an original car in China for worldwide consumption." Autocar believes this could be a product to challenge the Volkswagen ID 3, but it's early days yet. More likely, it will present unexpected features, Tesla's hiring call making sure to call out those who might not be classically trained transport designers, but any of "those with bold ideas" who are ready to go beyond the average car.

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