Tesla asks for apologies in China after state media criticism
Tesla presence at the Shanghai Auto Show, China’s economic “capital”, in this this week, was overshadowed by protesters who claimed Tesla vehicles had “defective brakes”.
The incident attracted the attention of visitors, before security guards removed the protesters.
The company said that a Tesla customer who participated in the demonstration requested a refund after an accident in February, allegedly caused by a brake failure.
Negotiations stopped after the car owner declined a third party investigation into the accident to see if it was caused by a malfunction or speeding.
Tesla added that it would be responsible for any problems with its cars, adding that it does not commit itself to “unjustified complaints”.
Tesla’s reaction drew criticism from the Chinese state press and prompted an apology from the automaker.
“We sincerely apologize for not quickly resolving the issue with the car owner,” wrote Tesla in his official Weibo account, the equivalent of Twitter in China.
A team was created to handle the case and cooperate with “any government investigation”.
The turnaround came after the company was accused of “evading its responsibilities” whenever it was criticized, according to an article by the China Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, the Communist Party’s main legal authority.
Tesla’s popularity in China comes from the brand’s prestige with consumers, “but arrogance and a lack of respect for China’s market and consumers cannot be the answer to that prestige,” they said.
The official Xinhua news agency questioned, “Who is it that gives Tesla the confidence not to compromise?”
Tesla’s Model 3 was the best-selling electric car in China in 2020, and its recently launched compact sports car Model Y also proved to be a success.
Public scrutiny by Western companies serving Chinese consumers is not uncommon and is often fueled by the state press.
This is also occurring at a time when Tesla faces increasing competition in the emerging Chinese electric vehicle market. Chinese electric vehicle startup NIO Inc. unveiled a fourth production model last month. Li Auto Inc. and Xpeng Inc, two other Chinese startups, are also introducing new models to the market.
A series of negative headlines in recent weeks threatens to undermine Tesla’s success in the country.
Some military complexes in Beijing last month banned Tesla vehicle owners from parking inside their closed condominiums, fearing that car chambers could pose a security threat.