In a groundbreaking development, Saudi Arabia is reportedly in early-stage discussions with electric vehicle giant Tesla to set up a manufacturing facility within the kingdom. This move comes as part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious strategy to secure essential metals for electric vehicle production, furthering its efforts to diversify its economy away from oil dependency.
Diversifying Beyond Oil
These talks are a crucial part of Saudi Arabia’s long-term plan to reduce its reliance on oil revenues. The kingdom has been actively enticing Tesla by offering access to vital metals and minerals required for electric vehicle production, which could potentially be sourced from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of assets in the Congo, a major supplier of the world’s cobalt, highlights its commitment to securing resources crucial for the electric vehicle industry.
Potential Financing Deal
One intriguing proposal on the table involves Saudi Arabia providing financing to Trafigura, a prominent commodities-trading company, for a struggling cobalt and copper project in the Congo. If this materializes, it could pave the way for a reliable supply chain of metals directly to a potential Tesla manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia. This strategic partnership has the potential to significantly bolster Tesla’s goal of producing 20 million vehicles annually by 2030.
Lucid Group’s Role
It’s important to note that Lucid Group, a direct competitor of Tesla in the electric vehicle market, plays a significant role in this scenario. Lucid, which is majority-owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, is gearing up to commence limited-scale vehicle reassembly at its first international plant on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. This development aligns with the broader vision of boosting electric vehicle production in the region.
Past Encounters and Complexities
Elon Musk’s past interactions with the Saudi government add complexity to these discussions. In 2018, the Saudi Public Investment Fund purchased $2 billion worth of Tesla shares, and discussions about further investments took place. These talks famously led to Musk’s tweet about taking Tesla private, which had legal ramifications. Despite these past hurdles, Saudi officials are optimistic about Tesla’s interest in establishing a manufacturing facility within the kingdom.
A Boost to Saudi Arabia’s Investment Efforts
If this partnership between Saudi Arabia and Tesla comes to fruition, it would not only benefit the electric vehicle industry but also serve as a significant milestone in Saudi Arabia’s quest to attract foreign investment. This has been a top priority for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
A Broader Initiative
Saudi Arabia’s interest in Tesla is part of a broader initiative to secure metals from international sources, refine them domestically, and integrate them into a growing ecosystem centered around renewable energy. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is engaging in discussions with the United States to acquire metals needed for the global energy transition, a move aimed at reducing China’s dominance in the electric vehicle supply chain.
The Path Forward
While these talks are still in their infancy, they represent a pivotal moment for both Saudi Arabia and Tesla. The kingdom’s eagerness to establish a Tesla manufacturing facility showcases its determination to diversify its economy and become a key player in the electric vehicle industry. As discussions progress, the world will be watching closely to see if this ambitious vision becomes a reality.
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