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The Shaming Continues: Global Times Says “Tesla Blunder” Can “Inflict Serious Damage” On Chinese Market

Just yesterday, we wrote about how it appeared the love affair between China and Elon Musk was starting to fizzle out in a big way. 

Among other things, we pointed out what appeared to be an ongoing wave of criticism of Musk and Tesla being engineered by Chinese state media. That “wave” doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon.

Later in the day on Wednesday, state run media outlet the Global Times joined the fray, publishing an article characterizing Tesla’s response to its quality issues this week as a “blunder” and using the chance to shame Tesla and use them as an example for other foreign firms that may want to do business in China. 

“US electric carmaker Tesla is under serious fire in China in what could be the biggest public relations crisis for the otherwise highly popular company in the Chinese market,” the piece said. “The blunder was created by the company itself and could have been avoided.”

The piece is referring to Tesla reportedly “lashing out” against a protestor at this week’s Shanghai Auto Show, who jumped onto the roof of a Tesla and called the quality of the company’s brakes into question. Tesla responded by calling the woman’s demands “unreasonable”. 

The Global Times writes: “The response quickly elicited criticism from the Chinese public and various authorities in China, where many called the statement arrogant and overbearing. The simmering pressure of public opinion eventually made Tesla bow its head, with an apology letter, in which it vowed to respect consumers and abide by laws and regulations. The apology marked a 180-degree turn from its initial response; however, it may have been too late, as criticism continues to fly in.

Then, the piece alludes to Tesla potentially losing business in the country – a statement worth noting due to the Global Times’ ties to the CCP. “Clearly, the way the car owner protested was inappropriate and even illegal. That is why she has been put under police detention for five days. However, the arrogant and overbearing stance the company exhibited in front of the public is repugnant and unacceptable, which could inflict serious damage on its reputation and customer base in the Chinese market,” the piece concluded. 

Yesterday, we wrote about how commentary by a CCTV broadcaster called for an investigation into Tesla’s brake failures following the incident. 

The CCTV commentary “said the regulator could invite third-party testing agencies that both the customer and Tesla can trust to test the vehicles,” according to a Reuters report on Tuesday. At the same time, it has been reported that one of China’s largest insurers has temporarily stopped providing services for new Tesla owners after the incident.

Additionally this week, China’s Xinhua News Agency has said that Tesla’s apology for its poor service “lacks basic sincerity,” according to a Wednesday report by Bloomberg. Tesla “didn’t give a ‘substantive’ response to the customer’s complaints and public concerns, and the apology letter was no more than crisis management,” the news agency reportedly said. 

Xinhua also pointed out that Tesla has a “natural advantage” of being able to look into the causes of its car accidents and that it should use it to win customers’ trust with modesty. This is as opposed to what it did with such data this week, when Elon Musk (likely prematurely) Tweeted out that data from a fatal wreck in Houston said that Autopilot was not engaged at the time of the accident. “Tesla should reflect on, and tackle its problems at the roots,” Bloomberg reported that Xinhua said.

Meanwhile, a separate report from Bloomberg notes that China’s State Administration for Market Regulation asked its local departments to ensure “legitimate rights” of consumers after the outburst at the Shanghai Auto Show. 

CNBC’s Eunice Yoon also reported during the day Wednesday that China’s state media warned Tesla for the second day in a row against “arrogance”. 

Sounds like things are going great over there. To quote Elon Musk’s own words, “China rocks”.

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