Tesla apologized after being attacked by Chinese state media for its treatment of customers, days after a protest against the company in one of its most important markets.
The presence of the American automaker in Shanghai Auto Show This week was overshadowed by protesters wearing T-shirts alleging Tesla vehicles had “faulty brakes.” The incident drew huge crowds before security guards swept away the protesters.
The company said a Tesla customer who took part in the demonstration requested a refund after an accident in February, which it said was caused by brake failure. But negotiations were stalled after the owner refused to allow a third-party investigation into whether a malfunction or speeding caused the crash.
Tesla added that she would take responsibility for any issues with her cars, but “our attitude is that we don’t compromise with unreasonable complaints.”
But Tesla’s response sparked a wave of criticism from Chinese state media, prompting the company to issue an apology.
“We deeply apologize for not having resolved the issue with the owner of the car in a timely manner,” Tesla wrote on Tuesday on his official account on Weibo, the Chinese blogging platform. A team had been set up to deal with the protester’s case and “would work with any government investigation”.
$ 6.7 billion
Tesla sales in China last year
The about-face came after the company was accused of “shirking its responsibilities” whenever it was criticized, according to an article by China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the country’s top legal authority. Communist Party. The missive was shared on WeChat, the social media platform.
Tesla’s popularity in China came from the fact that consumers have confidence in the company, the article continues, “but arrogance, not to mention a lack of respect for the Chinese market and consumers, cannot be the answer to this faith ”.
Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, asked in another message, “Who gives Tesla the confidence to ‘not compromise’?”
Tesla has great ambitions in China. Its Model 3 sedan was the best-selling electric car in the country in 2020 and its recent version made in China Model Y The compact sport utility vehicle has also proven its worth. The company reported $ 6.7 billion in sales in the country last year, making China its second largest market after the United States.
But national rivals accelerate efforts to tackle the business, launching models to attract young consumers.
“Tesla has a lot at stake,” said Tu Le, founder of Sino Auto Insights, a consultancy firm. “They risk alienating the one place that is the linchpin of their ambitions.”
Chinese state media are used to stoking sentiment against foreign companies. Brands such as Nike and H&M were hit last month by a backlash in Xinjiang, the western region where Beijing has been accused of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims.
A string of negative headlines in recent weeks has threatened to undermine Tesla’s success. Last month, some Beijing military complexes banned Tesla owners from parking their vehicles inside their gated communities for fear that car cameras could pose a security threat. The company denied that the cameras could be used for espionage.