Tesla steps up engagement with regulators as China’s scrutiny intensifies

Tesla

Industry sources claim that electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc is boosting its engagement with mainland regulators and beefing up its government relations team.

Tesla is cranking up its government relations as it continues to face scrutiny in China over safety and customer service complaints.

Tesla’s government relations beef up comes at a time when China is trying to regulate large and powerful private companies, especially in the technology sector, on concerns about their market dominance.

As they do elsewhere, regulators in China, the world’s biggest auto market, discuss industry policies and standards with global and local companies, industry associations and think tanks.

Manufacturers typically join such meetings in China, but unlike rivals including Toyota Motor and General Motors Co, Tesla officials were largely absent from the closed-door gatherings, sources said.

Instead, Tesla officials regularly speak at high-profile industry conferences.

Outside China, Tesla’s outspoken chief executive Elon Musk regularly takes to Twitter to comment on or criticise regulators or rules.

But in past weeks, Tesla executives attended at least four policy discussions, on topics including auto data storage, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technologies, car recycling and carbon emissions, the sources said.

Tesla is also expanding its government relationship team in China, one of the sources said.

According to two recruitment advertisements in April on its WeChat account, Tesla is hiring managers to update a policy database and maintain relationships with government and industry associations to “build a harmonious external environment to support Tesla’s business development in the regional market.”

Accounting for roughly 30% of Tesla’s global sales, China is the automaker’s second biggest market after the United States and helped it post record first-quarter vehicle deliveries.

Pressure has been building over the past few months on Tesla’s mostly excellent relations with Beijing.

In February, Chinese regulators summoned it over consumer reports of battery fires, unexpected acceleration and failures in over-the-air software updates.

And in March, Tesla came under scrutiny when the military banned its cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns over vehicle cameras, sources claimed.

Days later, Musk appeared by video at a high-level forum, saying that if Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, it would be shut down.

Last month, Tesla was targeted by state media and regulators after a customer, angry over the handling of her complaint about malfunctioning brakes, climbed on top of a Tesla car in protest at the Shanghai auto show. Videos of the incident went viral.

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