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Buying A Tesla In China: Just Call It 'Te Su Le'?


Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

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It's now possible to buy a Tesla Model S electric car in China, with one stipulation.

Head over to Tesla Motors' [NSDQ:TSLA] Chinese website, and you'll see everything about the car except the name "Tesla." That's because Tesla hasn't given itself a Chinese name, Reuters reports.

"Te Si La," the Chinese name Tesla hoped to trademark, was registered by businessman Zhan Baosheng in 2006.

In addition to securing the trademark, Baosheng set up a "Tesla Motors China" website that prominently featured Tesla's logo.

Tesla opened its first Chinese store in Beijing earlier this year--and more recently launched a Chinese-language website--but will continue selling nameless cars in China until it can find alternate nomenclature.

Some online fans have suggested "Te Su Le," which translates to "happiness in boosting speed."

Alternatively, Tesla could pay Baosheng for the use of the trademark, although he reportedly has no plans to sell it outright.

Reuters notes that Apple had to pay $60 million to a Chinese company in 2012 for the legal right to use the "iPad" trademark in China.

Website of 'Tesla Motors China', Aug 2013

Website of 'Tesla Motors China', Aug 2013

Enlarge Photo
Despite the trademark debacle, Tesla believes China will become an important market for its electric cars.

Chinese luxury-car buyers are currently grabbing all of the Audis, Bentleys, and BMWs they can get their hands on, so the Model S could fit right in.

While consumers haven't shown much enthusiasm for electric cars, the Chinese government is also trying to encourage their use with heavy incentives.

On the other hand, China's power grid is among the dirtiest in the world, which reduces the environmental benefits of an electric car.

And just to make China even more interesting, there's also the possibility that some small carmaker will produce a Tesla knockoff--potentially even powered by a gasoline engine.

Despite those risks, Tesla seems intent on making a go of its Chinese sales--whether its cars have names on their trunklids or not.

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