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Musk says China rivals 'work hardest, smartest'

(Reuters) - Detroit? Nope. Germany? Nein. Elon Musk sees the toughest competition for Tesla in China, home of the company he expects "most likely to be second" in electric vehicles.

China is Tesla Inc's second-largest market - accounted for about two-thirds of all electric vehicles sales globally in 2022 - and the home of Tesla's biggest plant.

It's also a market that has embraced EVs and is replete with rivals competing on style and price, including Xpeng, Nio and BYD Co Ltd.

Releasing financial results on Wednesday, Tesla said they showed recent deep price cuts were stimulating demand, and that the company is cutting costs with a view to growing through what Musk expects will be a recession this year.

Asked about Tesla's competition, Musk responded that he respected car companies in China, calling it the most competitive market in the world. Musk did not identify any Chinese automakers by name.

"They work the hardest and they work the smartest," he said. "And so we guess, there is probably some company out of China as the most likely to be second to Tesla."

Tesla recently promoted China chief Tom Zhu to run U.S. factories and sales in North America and Europe, Reuters has reported.

"Our team is winning in China. And think we actually are able to attract the best talent in China. So hopefully that continues."

Tesla has cut prices in response to growing competition and slowing demand in China, followed by cuts in the United States and other markets.

Musk has praised Chinese workers and competitors before.

In 2021, he called Chinese automakers the "most competitive in the world," saying some of them are very good at software. He also said Chinese workers had been "burning the 3 a.m. oil" to keep Tesla's factories running during COVID lockdowns last year.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin, Kevin Krolicki and Akash Sriram; Writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)