Chinese concern over vehicle safety adds to Tesla knocks
Singapore — The knocks keep coming for Tesla, with the electric carmaker singled out in a piece from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency that said the quality of its vehicles must meet market expectations to win consumers’ trust.
The Palo Alto, California-based company should address consumer hesitation over purchasing its cars after issues ranging from malfunctioning brakes to fires erupting during the vehicles’ charging emerged last year, Tuesday’s article said.
Tesla on Monday had an embarrassing moment at the Shanghai Auto Show when an angry protester climbed on top of one of its display vehicles shouting that her car’s brakes were faulty. The woman, a Tesla owner from Henan, “is widely known for having repeatedly protested against Tesla’s brake issue”, the company said. She was live-streaming earlier from near Tesla’s booth at the show before staging her protest.
Over the weekend, a Tesla car that no-one appeared to be driving crashed in Texas, erupting into flames and killing the two passengers. The car ran into a tree after travelling at high speed and failing to navigate a turn. One victim was found in the front passenger seat of the 2019 Model S and the other was in the rear, suggesting no-one was driving at the time of impact.
The slew of incidents comes at an uncomfortable time for Tesla, which over the past month has defended the way it handles data in China and had its cars banned from military complexes. CEO Elon Musk later denied the company would ever use a vehicle’s technology for spying and Tesla’s Beijing unit said cameras that are built into its EVs are not activated outside North America.
Tesla has been called in by Chinese regulators over quality and safety issues before, including battery fires and abnormal acceleration. It was forced into issuing a public apology to China’s state grid in early February after a video purportedly showed staff blaming an overload in the national electricity network for damage to a customer’s vehicle.
The US carmaker is also facing increasing competition in China from newer, cashed-up local firms such as Nio and Xpeng. Their presence at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show was telling, with their large, shiny booths overshadowing exhibits from some of the more traditional carmakers such as BMW.
Teslas are hugely popular in China, which is the world’s biggest car market for EVs and conventional vehicles. A record 34,714 China-built and imported Teslas were registered in the country in March, almost double the 18,155 registrations in February, when the week long Lunar New Year holiday slowed sales, and almost triple the number a year earlier, when the nation was in the grip of coronavirus lockdowns.
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