Tesla’s Chinese customers losing faith in the brand?

The owner of Tesla EVs are reportedly installing cameras to record pedal movement in case of an accident. Was it triggered by the recent crash in the US that led to two deaths?

Tesla’s problem don’t seem to decrease in China anytime soon. Its multiple EVs reported crashes in recent times throughout the country. While the LA-based company denied failure or malfunction of its tech being the reason for such crashes and blamed drivers for irresponsible driving, the customers don’t agree to subscribe to this view. Obviously! Moreover, a brand claiming that NONE of the so many crashes could ever be because of a technology that is AI based is disappointing in itself. If there’s anything we know, many of these crashes could’ve actually occurred because of the car itself due to the drivers being overly-confident on the claims made by the company for its autonomous tech.

Now local media website, Fast Technology reported that some Tesla owners decided to install cameras to record their vehicles’ pedals, especially the brakes! (Well that’s a full circle, being blamed for spying and surveillance to become a subject of surveillance itself). The owners informed that the reason behind installing these cameras is to get video evidence if they get involved in any crash with their cars.

The whole case started with a woman’s viral protest at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show. On April 26, a woman named Zhang Yazhou climbed atop a Tesla Model 3 on display at the event to rail against Tesla’s alleged quality-control issues. She wore a shirt with the phrases “Invisible Killer” and “The Brakes Don’t Work,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The woman was identified by the EV maker as a customer who has complained about a brake failure in her car that she claims led her father to crash, as reported by multiple outlets.

The Chinese government intensified pressure on Tesla to address quality problems in the country. The company apologized and created a Special Handling Team. Yazhou demands her money back. However, Tesla refuses to do that.

In a statement released on social media following the incident, Tesla said that the incident happened due to excessive speed – not faulty brakes, the Journal reported. A Tesla representative told local media that the company had tried to rectify the situation and that it would not give in to “unreasonable demands,” multiple outlets reported.

This crisis could hamper Tesla’s growth in the country, the largest electric-vehicle market in the world and an increasingly important one for the LA brand. The company is currently being lashed by multiple Chinese media outlets.

Xinhua News, a state-run agency published an article on April 27 (Tuesday) arguing that Tesla needs to meet certain quality standards if it wants to earn customers’ satisfaction. The same day, China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission issued a statement saying that the company must stop “pretending to be oblivious to hidden dangers of which it’s well aware,” and that it needs to “face up to the torment of its Chinese customers”.

On Wednesday, another state-run Global Times published an opinion piece saying: “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”.

Amid the public outcry, Tesla apologized on Tuesday for the way it handled the woman’s complaints, vowing to create a division dedicated to consumer satisfaction. Following orders from a local regulator, Tesla released data logs from the vehicle that crashed.

Chinese regulators also summoned Tesla for a meeting in February about customer complaints like unintended acceleration and battery fires. And in March, multiple outlets reported that Chinese officials had restricted the use of Teslas among government workers over security concerns.

Tesla is currently also under scrutiny in the US following a recent fatal Model S crash in Texas where it appeared nobody was driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and local police are all investigating the incident, which caught the attention of the States Senate Democrats.

Reputation damages are hard and expensive to fix when it comes to automotive companies. Hyundai had to stop selling the Kona Electric in South Korea because of spontaneous fires and despite a costly recall that should get affected units properly fixed. Tesla’s is getting into one trouble after another in China, and if it won’t fix this asap, the EV makers end up in the same lane as Hyundai, especially when customers are getting more alternatives in the market every other week.

Filming the brake pedals to avoid being accused of driving mistakes is a strong sign that customers do not trust Tesla as a neutral source of information about crashes involving its own cars. If the company’s image gets attached to quality problems and trust concerns in the biggest car market in the world, Giga Shanghai may have to export most of its production.

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Himanshu Harsh

My love for automobiles is what fuels my writing. You can catch me twisting synth knobs when I'm not drooling over cars.

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