Tesla comes under growing China pressure

23 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

SHANGHAI: Tesla Inc came under increased pressure in China on Wednesday from regulators and state media after Monday’s protest by a disgruntled customer at the Shanghai auto show went viral and forced the electric car maker into a rare apology. The singling-out of Tesla in China, which accounts for 30 per cent of the U.S. firm’s global sales and where it makes cars at its own factory in Shanghai, comes amid ongoing U.S.-China tensions and as other foreign firms have encountered backlash, report agencies.

“China will continue to open up its market to foreign business, but that does not mean foreign companies will be offered any privilege,” the Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in an opinion piece on the “Tesla blunder”.

On Monday, an unhappy customer clambered on top of a Tesla at the auto show in protest over the company’s handling of her complaints about malfunctioning brakes, triggering a social media storm, with regulators and state media also weighing-in.

Late on Wednesday, China’s market regulator urged Tesla to ensure product quality in the country, while the official Xinhua news agency said that Tesla’s apology was “not sincere”. “The arrogant and overbearing stance the company exhibited in front of the public is repugnant and unacceptable, which could inflict serious damage on its reputation and customer base in the Chinese market,” the Global Times write.

Tesla, whose cars are popular in China, declined to comment, but said in a statement it would share data on the brake incident with regulators, after a local regulator demanded it. In videos that went viral from Monday’s car show, a woman wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “The brakes don’t work” shouted similar accusations while staff and security struggled to restore calm.

Tesla on Tuesday apologised to Chinese consumers for not addressing the complaint in a timely way, and said it would launch a review of its service operations in the world’s biggest auto market.

However, the Xinhua news agency said Tesla’s apology fell short.

“A big company should have the responsibility of being a big company, no company can do whatever it wants,” it said in a commentary on Wednesday night.

“If a company does not rectify when it has a problem, if it does not change a problematic senior executive ... it will eventually make mistakes again,” it said.

On Monday, Grace Tao, a Tesla vice-president, told a local media outlet that “there is no possibility Tesla will compromise” and said the she suspected that there was someone putting the customer up to the protest.


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