Tesla has apologised to Chinese consumers for not addressing a customer's complaints in a timely way. The Elon Musk founded firm said it would launch a review of its service operations in the world's biggest auto market.
The unusual public apology from Tesla followed criticism in state media, and an incident at the Shanghai auto show that got wide attention in China's social media, Reuters said. An unhappy customer by clambered atop a Tesla at the auto show to protest the company's handling of her complaints about malfunctioning brakes.
Videos that went viral on Monday showed a woman wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "The brakes don't work" and shouting similar accusations while staff and security struggled to restore calm.
The trouble for Tesla in China overlapped with new questions in the United States about the safety of the company's Autopilot partially-automated driving systems. Police in Texas are investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S that hit a tree and burst into flames.
Rescuers found victims in the passenger and rear seat, not the driver's seat. Federal regulators are investigating the crash, and have a total of 24 probes underway of accidents involving Tesla's operating on Autopilot.
Tesla sells nearly 30% cars in China
Tesla sells roughly 30 percent of its cars in China, made at its Shanghai factory. China is an important market for Tesla, with sales topping 120,000 units last year, according to local registration data. The California-based group globally delivered almost 500,000 cars in 2020 and expects more than 50 percent growth in 2021, implying it will hand over at least 750,000 vehicle, Bloomberg said.
China is also the world’s biggest EV market and sales of new energy vehicles are expected to jump 40 percent this year to 1.8 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers forecasts.
But Tesla has faced occasional criticism over issues such as complaints of battery fires.
Monday's incident led state broadcaster CCTV to call for an investigation of reported brake problems on Tesla cars, while China's anti-graft watchdog weighed in with a commentary saying such disputes should be resolved within the rule of law.
"Individuals should not take extreme measures, and enterprises should not be arrogant and unreasonable," the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said late on Tuesday.
Tesla to share date related to brake incident
On Wednesday, a representative at Tesla's store in Zhengzhou, where the protesting customer came from, told local state media the automaker will share data related to the brake incident with local market regulators for investigation.
Tesla said on Monday that the woman was a vehicle owner who had been involved in a collision earlier this year. It cited "speeding violations" for the crash, adding in a social media statement that it had been negotiating with her about returning the car, but the talks had stalled over a third-party inspection.
Last month, Tesla came under scrutiny in China when the military banned its cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns over cameras in its vehicles, sources told Reuters. That prompted founder Elon Musk to say that if Tesla used cameras to spy in China or anywhere, it would be shut down. Earlier this month, Tesla said cameras in its cars are not activated outside of North America.