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Tesla has been enjoying favor in China since Giga Shanghai has been in operation, but that came to an abrupt halt this week. The US car manufacturer had to face heavy criticism in the largest global car market. Two Chinese government entities have lashed out at Tesla regarding its attitude on customer service after the car maker became the target of a protest at the Shanghai Auto Show earlier this week.
A local Tesla owner clambered up onto the roof of one of the Tesla vehicles that were on display and she made a very vocal complaint saying she nearly died because the brakes on her car had failed. Onlookers recorded the incident, which went viral on social media.
The uncomfortable publicity comes after Tesla has received great support from government that allowed the car company to get perks such as tax breaks and cheaper loans. However, on Tuesday after the incident occurred at the Shanghai Auto Show, China’s state-owned news agency, Xinhua published an unflattering article calling for the Tesla’s quality to meet market expectations if they wanted to win consumer trust in the region. The article stated, “Tesla should address consumer hesitation over buying its cars after issues emerged including malfunctioning brakes and fires during charging.”
Then just a couple of hours later, the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee added its 2 cents by commenting on its WeChat account saying, “Tesla should respect Chinese consumers and comply with local laws and regulations. Making an effort to find the cause of problems and improve features is something any responsible business should do, and Tesla hasn’t done that.”
The backlash was triggered by the scene at the auto show, so it was no surprise that Tesla’s increased its security presence at its booth the following day. Then on Wednesday, local market regulator in Zhengzhou ordered Tesla to submit driving data to the unhappy customer. Previously, Tesla stated it would only provide the data under specific conditions. Apparently, the local market regulator has been involved with handling the lady’s complaint since March.
However, it has also come to light that this particular customer has a reputation for targeting Tesla with numerous complaints, which is why Tesla had pushed back on her claims. But in the end, Tesla conceded and issued a statement where it apologized for the delay in resolving her issue.
The statement said:
“Tesla appreciates the trust and tolerance given by our car-owners, netizens and media friends, and actively listens to the suggestions and critics,” it said. “In order to make up for the discomfort of the owner as much as possible and the negative impact on her car using experience and life, we are always willing to try our best to actively communicate with her and seek solutions with the most sincere attitude.”
The Communist Party’s discipline commission later accepted that Tesla’s apology was more conciliatory even though the Xinhua news agency said the auto manufacturer’s apology was "not sincere". But then in a bizarre turn of events, the protesting woman was then detained.
China has played an integral part in helping Tesla achieve record deliveries of its electric vehicles in the first quarter of this year. However, Chinese competitors, Nio and Xpeng are emerging with considerable support of municipal governments. CEO of WM Motor Co, Freeman Shen, has previously described Tesla in China as “just like Apple in the early days, they educate the whole market.”
But Tesla is still a highly popular brand in China with 34,714 China-built and imported Teslas being registered in the country during March. This is double the figure of registrations that took place in February, and triple the number compared to figures a year ago.