WM Motor CEO: Tesla's reported 70 percent drop in China sales is 'misleading information'

  • An official from the China Passenger Car Association told Reuters on Tuesday that Tesla's China sales dropped 70 percent in October from a year earlier.
  • Speaking at CNBC's East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China, WM Motor CEO Freeman Shen called the report "misleading information."

Don't read too much into reports that Tesla sold just 211 cars in China last month, a top Chinese auto executive said Wednesday.

An official from the China Passenger Car Association told Reuters on Tuesday that Tesla's China sales dropped 70 percent in October from a year earlier. Speaking at CNBC's East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China, WM Motor CEO Freeman Shen called the report "misleading information."

"I doubt that number because, as a person who has been working in the Chinese auto industry for many years …the Chinese Passenger Car Association is not always accurate," Shen told CNBC's Eunice Yoon.

Freeman H. Shen, Founder, Chairman & CEO of WM Motor, speaks during Fireside Chat on Day 2 of CNBC East Tech West at LN Garden Hotel Nansha Guangzhou on November 28, 2018 in Nansha, Guangzhou, China. 
Dave Zhong/Getty Images for CNBC International
Freeman H. Shen, Founder, Chairman & CEO of WM Motor, speaks during Fireside Chat on Day 2 of CNBC East Tech West at LN Garden Hotel Nansha Guangzhou on November 28, 2018 in Nansha, Guangzhou, China. 

Shen said China vehicle sales are "always kind of a mystery" because automakers report their data through a number of different channels. He added companies can disclose vehicle sales "at free will" with the Chinese Passenger Car Association, adding it can be "any number you want."

In a statement Tuesday, a Tesla spokesperson called the October China sales plunge "wildly inaccurate," according to Reuters. A spokesperson for the Chinese Passenger Car Association wasn't immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Shen, a former executive at Fiat Chrysler, founded electric vehicle company WM Motor in 2015. The company has said it wants to be the "Ford of electric cars in China," appealing to a mass audience with cars in the $30,000 to $45,000 price range. Many electric vehicles on the market in China carry heftier price tags, like Nio's ES8 at $70,000 or Tesla's Model X priced at nearly $130,000.

In a separate television interview Wednesday with CNBC's Geoff Cutmore and Arjun Kharpal, Shen said he is "happy" Tesla entered the Chinese electric vehicle market, saying he doesn't view Elon Musk's company as direct competition.

"We are looking at the middle level of the market," Shen said.

China is the world's largest market for electric vehicles, accounting for more than half of global electric car sales in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). An estimated 1.23 million electric cars are in circulation in China, compared to 820,000 in Europe and 760,000 in the U.S.

Shen said he expects sustained growth in China's electric vehicle market over the next five to 10 years but said there will be consolidation among the numerous start-ups in the market. When asked if WM Motor will go public, Shen said the company is currently focused on product delivery.