Elon Musk hailed Chinese workers during an event this week – praising their talent and work ethic even as he took a jab at some members of the American labor force.
When asked to reveal which electric vehicle startups have impressed him the most, Musk first pointed to Volkswagen as a burgeoning competitor to his market-leading Tesla.
Next, he pivoted to China, stating that he expected some “very strong companies” to emerge from the country and provide more competition in the years ahead.
“There’s just a lot of super-talented, hard-working people in China that strongly believe in manufacturing and they won’t just be burning the midnight oil, they’ll be burning the 3 am oil,” Musk told the Financial Times.
“They won’t even leave the factory, type of thing, whereas in America, people are trying to avoid going to work at all,” he added.
Tesla already has one major manufacturing plant in Shanghai and the company indicated earlier this month that it plans to build a second facility in the area. Once the second plant is complete, Tesla will have the capacity to build as many as two million cars per year out of Shanghai.
But the original Shanghai plant has contended with issues in recent weeks – including supply shortages and renewed COVID-19 lockdowns in China that led to workers sleeping at the factory, according to Bloomberg.
Musk told the FT that he expects pressure from the China lockdowns to ease in the days ahead.
‘I’ve had some conversations with the Chinese government in recent days, and it’s clear that the lockdowns are being lifted rapidly, so I would not expect this to be a significant issue in the coming weeks,” Musk added.
Musk’s own work ethic has drawn headlines. When Tesla was struggling to ramp up production of its Model 3 sedan in 2018, Musk told CBS that he had taken to “sleeping on the factory floor” because he lacked the time to go home.
While Tesla is betting heavily on China to meet demand for its vehicles, the company has clashed with workers and labor advocates in the U.S. The state of California filed suit against Tesla earlier this year over claims of alleged racial bias and discrimination at one of its factories within the state.
In March, Musk said he would welcome United Auto Workers to hold a union vote at Tesla’s California manufacturing plant – asserting the company’s workers are already well-treated and compensated.
Meanwhile, Musk is moving forward with his effort to acquire Twitter. The billionaire sparked a debate Tuesday after he said he would overturn former President Donald Trump’s permanent ban from the platform.