Hong Kong/Beijing, Tesla has been swept up in yet another controversy in China, even as the company tries to win new customers there with cars it says will be tailor-made to match their preferences. CNN reports
This week, Tesla’s booth at the Shanghai Auto Show was briefly besieged by protesters complaining about problems with its cars, criticism that has dogged Elon Musk’s company for months in the world’s biggest market.
Video footage of the incident on Monday, which later went viral in China, showed a woman climbing on top of a Tesla vehicle, alleging that her car had defective brakes.
The demonstrator — who wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with a Tesla logo and the words “brake failure” — was later pulled away by security.
The incident overshadowed an announcement the US company made the same day, when a senior Tesla executive told Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald that the automaker would start developing some of its vehicles in China from scratch — with new models that would incorporate “many Chinese elements.”
While the vehicles would be designed based on Chinese consumer research, they’ll also be sold around the world, Grace Tao Lin, Tesla’s vice president of external affairs in China, was reported as saying.The news was supposed to mark an important milestone in Tesla’s Chinese expansion plans, which are critical to its global strategy.
China accounts for a fifth of Tesla’s (TSLA) revenue, and is its second largest market after the United States, according to a recent company filing. Musk himself has said that China could become the automaker’s “biggest market” in the long run.
But while the company had in the past enjoyed a warm reception in China — especially after setting up a Gigafactory on the outskirts of Shanghai — its reputation has taken a knock in recent months, with challenges ranging from questions over how its cars are made to concerns over the data it collects.