Tesla’s US$7 billion gigafactory in Shanghai —  the company’s first such facility outside the US —  is expected to commence operations at the end of this year, China Daily reported.

The electric car giant updated the progress in building the gigafactory at a signing ceremony for intelligent connected electric vehicle projects held at the China Pilot Free Trade Zone’s Lingang Special Area last week.

Tesla explained the main part of the factory in Lingang has completed construction.

Workshops for punching, painting and general assembly are ready for production. The first body in white — the car body with its sheet metal components welded together — has been delivered to the assembly line for further procedures such as painting and installation of moving parts, the report said.

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said in a Twitter message on Wednesday the company “is building a major engineering team in China, including heavy focus on software/firmware for factory and car.”

In a wanted ad posted on Tesla’s official WeChat account on Sept 2, the company said it has opened eight job vacancies in China, which are all technical positions.

Tao Lin, the global vice-president of Tesla, said it took the company only six months from signing contracts with the municipal government of Shanghai in July last year to break ground in Lingang. The first cars are likely to roll off the assembly line by the end of this year, the report said.

The progress exemplified the efficiency of the special area in Shanghai, she added.

Lingang Special Area, where Tesla’s factory is located, was officially included into the Shanghai FTZ on Aug 20 with a focus on high-end manufacturing industries such as integrated circuits and biomedicine.

During the signing ceremony, the local administrative body of Lingang signed agreements with 24 intelligent connected electric vehicle projects that cover manufacturing, application, services and functional platforms. The total investment is worth 8 billion yuan.

Lingang Special Area executive deputy director Zhu Zhisong said that an industrial cluster of intelligent connected electric vehicles is taking shape there, the report said.

The purpose is to create a globally influential electric car industrial cluster, he said.

Public information showed the total industrial output of carmakers and car parts manufacturers reached 38 billion yuan in Lingang last year, surpassing the electric equipment industry to become the sector with the highest yield in the area.