During a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York City, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Elon Musk to build a Tesla factory in Turkey. Elon Musk was accompanied by his team from SpaceX, including Lauren Dreyer, Ryan Goodnight, and Omar Kunbargi.
According to the official communiqué from the Turkish government, Erdoğan’s request for a Tesla factory came in response to Musk’s request for permission to operate Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet network, in Turkey. Musk’s request highlights the complex position he finds himself in, negotiating with foreign governments who can leverage his various companies against each other.
Starlink’s unique architecture, with thousands of satellites orbiting the planet, requires a global user base to be profitable. However, Starlink has been unable to gain permission to operate in Turkey, which has been a non-profitable market for the company. The Turkish market, with its large population and strong economy, is an attractive target for Starlink.
SpaceX has had a longstanding relationship with Turkey, having launched multiple satellites for TurkSat in the past. However, Turkey’s government controls telecommunications and prefers partnerships with state-backed firms. Starlink’s network doesn’t fit into this framework.
Despite restrictions on internet freedom and state control over telecommunications in Turkey, high-tech investments that create jobs and raise international prestige are still desirable. The request for a Tesla factory aligns with Turkey’s interests in attracting high-tech industries.
Elon Musk will need to consider the interests of publicly-traded Tesla, which is expected to announce the location of its seventh factory soon, and the market access priorities of privately-held SpaceX. This dynamic has also been observed in Musk’s relationship with China, where Tesla’s operations and sales have faced challenges.