Elon Musk visited Turkey and met with the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but no one knows exactly why — but the summit could have something to do with Tesla and Turkey’s domestic automotive ambitions.
The meeting comes shortly after five Turkish businesses launched a joint venture to produce a Turkish-made vehicle, according to the Associated Press. The project was reportedly encouraged by Erdogan, and the state has sponsored electric auto projects in the past that aimed to compete with Tesla in the country.
The Tesla/SpaceX/Boring Company CEO was photographed shaking hands with the controversial leader in the Presidential Complex at some point in the closed door meeting, an image which the office’s official Twitter account posted without providing any more details about what the two men discussed.
The visit was a planned event on Erdogan’s official schedule, although no further context was provided.
Telsa’s website lists 10 sites for future Superchargers around the Turkey, but all of the locations are tagged as “coming soon,” with no clear estimates for opening. There is an active community of Tesla owners in the country, but the automaker doesn’t currently sell its cars within the nation’s borders.
While Tesla’s automotive expansion makes the most sense for the meeting, the two men were photographed with some model spaceships bearing the logo of another of Musk’s companies: SpaceX. Again, there’s no obvious reason why Turkey might be interested in SpaceX’s services, but the rocket models could be another clue.
Musk’s visit to Turkey has been engulfed in controversy. Erdogan’s authoritarian regime has repressed the free press, rigged elections, and his recent visits to the US have turned violent as his personal security detail has assaulted protestors and reporters alike. Most recently, he’s detained two US diplomats, causing tension between the US and Turkey.
We reached out to Tesla for some explanation for the visit and asked about the automaker’s plans for Turkey, but haven’t heard back. We’ll update the story upon receiving a response.