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Tesla apologizes to Shanghai Auto Show protester, promises to abide by Chinese law

Written by Song Jingli Published on     2 mins read

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Tesla has done well in China, gained recognition from consumers, and built a good relationship with the government.

Tesla apologized late Tuesday night for not addressing the concerns of its Chinese customers in a timely manner, after a video went viral, showing a woman standing on top of a Model 3 and denouncing the brake failures of the company’s vehicles during the Shanghai Auto Show.

“Tesla respects and firmly obeys the decisions of relevant government departments, respects consumers, abides by laws and regulations, and resolutely, actively cooperates with all governmental investigations,” the EV maker stated on its official Weibo account.

Tesla said that it has formed a special team to deal with the case, and that the company will do whatever it takes to satisfy the client’s demands. The woman, surnamed Zhang, was in a Tesla vehicle when she was involved in a car accident in February. Zhang says the cause was brake failure. Tesla initially said it was due to speeding.

Before visiting the auto show, the woman lodged a complaint with the Zhengzhou branch of the State Administration for Market Regulation, demanding Tesla to provide all data collected in the half-hour before the accident. Tesla declined, citing concerns that she may use this information to defame the company, Hongxing News reported on Tuesday, citing the authorities.

In an op-ed, Xinhua criticized Tesla’s response and the stance of an executive who said publicly that the company will not give in to Zhang’s demands. “Apparently, this apology comes under huge public pressure,” Zhang Xiang, an auto analyst with a government-affiliated think tank, told KrASIA on Wednesday. He added that Tesla and the government might formulate a solution on how vehicle data could be stored, such as involving a third party as the custodian.

“Tesla’s sales have been picking up in China, but its post-sale service still lags far behind most automakers in the country,” said Hao Yan, who witnessed Zhang’s actions at the Shanghai Auto Show and runs a WeChat account that provides tech-related news.

The case highlights the problem that as more and more new features are added to EVs, customers might struggle to understand and adapt to them, according to Liu Xiaoming, a partner with consulting firm Kearney. “Not all drivers are tech-savvy enough to easily cope with the advanced technical features, leading to complaints,” he said. “The case also serves as a warning to all automakers, reminding them to make an effort to know their customers and treat them correctly, as negative media reports undoubtedly hurt the brand.”

Liu thinks that it is hard to say whether this will affect Tesla in China, second only to its home market. In the past several years, its cars have sold well in the country. Tesla has gained recognition among consumers, and has built a good relationship with the government, manifested in the construction of its Shanghai plant, he added.

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