China mounts pressure on Tesla in the wake of customer complaints

Tesla

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% 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.

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”.

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.

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.

The interview prompted accusations of “arrogance” on Tesla’s part from state media.

Meanwhile, the Global Times published a story on a deadly accident reportedly involving a Tesla that “surfaced online on Wednesday,” which it said raises further Tesla quality control concerns.

Last month, Tesla came under scrutiny in China when the military banned its cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns over cameras in its vehicles, sources told Reuters. Earlier this month, Tesla said cameras in its cars are not activated outside of North America.

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