Tuesday, August 3, 2021

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MOSCOW—

Elon Musk

raised the prospect of Russian-made

Tesla Inc.

TSLA 4.14%

cars, saying the company was considering opening a factory in the country as it looks to expand its production facilities globally.

In a 45-minute appearance via video link at a Kremlin-supported educational forum, Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said the company was looking at opening production facilities outside of the U.S. and China where it already has sites.

“I think we are close to establishing a Tesla presence in Russia, that would be great,” Mr. Musk said Friday, adding that he was also looking at expanding to the former Soviet nation of Kazakhstan, and other neighboring states.

“Over time, we will look to have factories in other parts of the world,” he said.

There were around 11,000 electric passenger cars registered in Russia, of which only 700 were Teslas, at the start of 2021.



Photo:

evgenia novozhenina/Reuters

Mr. Musk was speaking at a festival for students that attracts science and tech entrepreneurs, and touched on everything from Mars exploration to religion and the future of humanity. Apple Inc. co-founder

Steve Wozniak

was also scheduled to speak at the forum.

Mr. Musk called for dialogue between the U.S. and Russia at a time when relations between the two nations have deteriorated to Cold War-era lows. Mr. Musk said Kremlin spokesman

Dmitry Peskov

invited him to participate in the forum.

“There is a lot of talent and energy in Russia,” Mr. Musk said. “There should be more dialogue and communication between Russia and the United States.”

Earlier in 2021, the billionaire entrepreneur invited Russian President

Vladimir Putin

to join him for a chat on the social-media app Clubhouse. Mr. Peskov said Friday that such a talk could happen in the future.

The Russian market for electric cars is small though it has grown fast in recent years. At the start of 2021, there were around 11,000 electric passenger cars registered in Russia, of which only 700 were Tesla models, according to data provider Autostat. The most popular model in Russia is the Nissan Leaf, with around 9,000 vehicles, Autostat data shows.

The lack of charging infrastructure is one of the main issues holding back electric cars in Russia, analysts say, noting that there are only around 400 charging stations across the country, which is the world’s largest by territory. Still, the number of electric cars registered in Russia has grown by 71% over the past year, according to Autostat, mainly due to an abolition of import duties on electric cars from nearby countries.

Russia has no major electric car projects. Minister of Industry and Trade

Denis Manturov

said in March that private car maker Zetta was designing an experimental model and planned to launch production in 2021.

At the forum, Mr. Musk said that in the future, all transport, apart from rockets, would be electric.

“I think we’ll look back at internal combustion engine cars in the same way we look back on steam engines,” he said. It is happening very fast.”

Mr. Musk, who also heads SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said that humanity needed to become a multi-planet civilization with “travel beyond the Solar System.” He joked that he was an alien. “Where do you think I got all this technology from?” he asked.

Write to Georgi Kantchev at georgi.kantchev@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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