‘Free speech absolutist’ Elon Musk ‘in early talks’ to open Tesla factory in Saudi Arabia – where man was sentenced to death last month for tweeting negatively about regime

Self-proclaimed ‘free speech absolutist’ Elon Musk is in talks to open a Tesla factory in Saudi Arabia – where citizens continue to be murdered over negative tweets about the kingdom.

A deal with the Saudis could help Musk achieve his ambitious goal of selling 20 million vehicles a year by 2030 – up from just 1.3 million vehicles sold in 2022.

The move is part of an ambitious effort by the kingdom to diversify its economy away from oil and secure metals needed to make electric cars.

But this comes amid a series of high-profile human rights abuses by the authoritative regime in Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly cracking down on peaceful dissent.

Last month, a court sentenced a retired Saudi teacher to death for a series of tweets critical of the regime.

Self-proclaimed ‘free speech absolutist’ Elon Musk is in talks to open a Tesla factory in Saudi Arabia

The report comes just hours after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan asked Musk to build a car factory in Turkey, the country’s Communications Directorate said.

Musk will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in California on Monday.

Saudi Arabia is said to have given Tesla the right to buy specific quantities of metals and minerals the company needs for its electric vehicles from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the report said.

The kingdom has been trying to shift its economy away from oil and has signed multibillion-dollar deals with several countries to collaborate on the development, production and sales of electric vehicles.

In June, the Saudi Ministry of Investments signed a $5.6 billion deal with Chinese electric car maker Human Horizon.

US-based Lucid Group announced in August that its first overseas factory in Saudi Arabia will start limited production of Lucid Air EVs this month.

However, Musk’s Tesla brand is currently leading the EV market in the Middle East.

One of the proposals the kingdom is considering involves providing financing to commodities trader Trafigura for a faltering cobalt and copper project in Congo, which could help supply a Tesla factory, the WSJ report said.

A Trafigura spokesperson said the trader was reviewing its options for the Mutoshi project in Congo amid rising costs and persistently low cobalt prices.

Tesla did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment, while Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, declined to comment.

Musk said in May that Tesla would likely choose a location for a new factory by the end of 2023.

It currently has six factories and is building a seventh in Mexico, in the north of the state of Nuevo Leon.