Tesla CEO says negotiating with China on local production

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks about new Autopilot features during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

(In this story Tesla corrects Chinese transcript, issues English-language statement. Tesla says negotiating with China on local production, instead of starting production in two years)

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc is negotiating with the Chinese government on potentially producing cars domestically, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said.

Local production has the potential to slash the sales prices of its models by a third, he said, according to the automaker’s written releases on Musk’s remarks on Thursday and Friday in Beijing.

Foreign automakers are generally required to establish a joint venture with a Chinese company to produce cars domestically.

The California-based automaker has struggled with weak sales in China, leading to job cuts this year. Domestic media has put the headcount reduction at 30 percent of its 600 staff.

The company, which does not regularly release China sales data, said in a release on Friday that it had sold 3,025 Model S cars in the country from January to September.

Musk also said Tesla is already working with Chinese Internet company Baidu Inc on GPS navigation and automated driving.

He added that Tesla’s giant $5 billion battery plant in Nevada, known as the “gigafactory” would produce its first batch of batteries next year, estimating that the plant would reach full capacity in two to three years.

Reporting by Jake Spring and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Edwina Gibbs