Half a year ago, we brought you the story that in China, a market crucial to $$$TSLA’s success, buyers of Tesla’s $100,000 cars have to make do without built-in satellite navigation, because, duh, that huge display in the Model S talks to Google, and Google is blocked in China. Finally, Tesla will have a solution. Some time next year.
My Beijing buddy Tycho de Feijter of CarNewsChina.com informs us that the Chinese company Navinfo will provide the Chinese maps, along with “software for Chinese-language voice-control and touch-screen input.” It won’t be a simple upload. Tesla said it needs to make some adjustments to the hardware of the system first, most likely to make it communicate with China’s mobile data providers who tend to follow their own Chinese standards. (Ever tried to use your mobile on China Mobile? Don’t.)
A timetable to bring the Model S up to navigational snuff has not been announced. Chinese media hope it will be around Chinese New Year (end of February 2015.)
Navinfo is the go-to company when it comes to successfully navigating the maze of the on-line map business in China. According to CarNewsChina, “the company provides maps to various Chinese automakers and to the China-based operations of BMW, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Peugeot Citroen, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.” And why can it do what Google can’t? Simple:
Main shareholder of Navinfo is the state-owned China Siwei Surveying & Mapping Technology Corporation. For all intents and purposes, Tesla’s Chinese maps and software will be supplied by the government. Tesla supports the friendly people who will nuke you if you are not a good boy person: NavInfo is a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for the Chinese space program. According to the company’s website, “CASC is a large state-owned enterprise group with its own famous brands such as Shenzhou and Long March.” It “originated from the Fifth Academy of the Ministry of National Defense.” If you have spent a while in China, you know that CASC is closer to the Chinese military than NASA to theirs: CASC also makes “strategic and tactical missiles.”
I guess that, well, shoots down a theory that circulated last summer among devout Tesla acolytes, namely that Tesla shipped the Google-satnav to China intentionally, hoping that the immense popularity of Tesla in China will force the government to open up to Google. Instead, Tesla opens its computers to the Chinese government.
In July, Tycho wondered out aloud whether the missing satnav would be an impediment to Tesla sales. Maybe he was onto something, and it explains the mystery of the unsold 2,000 Model S?
(No more $TSLA today, I promise.)