Firm backtracks on uncompromising stance, pledges to address concerns
Media outlets and the central authorities have called on Tesla to respect Chinese consumers and comply with local laws and regulations, following the electronic vehicle maker's belated apology for its attitude toward customer complaints.
A woman climbed on top of a Tesla Model 3 car during an auto show in Shanghai on Monday and shouted about alleged quality defects that caused her car to crash.
The woman, who had protested before about the brake malfunction, was detained by local police for "disrupting public order". Videos of her being dragged away from the exhibition quickly went viral on the internet.
In a drastic departure from its initial statements, Tesla issued an apology on its Weibo account on Tuesday night saying that the company would strive to improve its communications and service to customers.
"Tesla respects and firmly obeys all decisions of related departments, respects customers, obeys the law and rules, and will firmly and actively coordinate with related department on the investigation," the statement read.
"We have formed a task force to solve this matter, address the claims by our customers in line with the law, and achieve an outcome that pleases the customers."
Previous responses by the US car manufacturer had stoked an already angry public reaction, with a senior executive saying that "the customer has contributed to most of the negative news about Tesla recently", and that the company will "by no means compromise".
The State Administration for Market Regulation said on Wednesday that it attaches great importance to the incident and has instructed the related market supervision departments to protect the legitimate rights and interests of consumers in accordance with the law.
The incident has already attracted a great deal of media attention. For example, Xinhua News Agency ran a commentary on Tuesday criticizing Tesla's uncompromising stance and suggesting that if a car company could not guarantee a safe driving experience and even speculates about a consumer's motivation, its brand image could be tarnished.
The central authorities have also had their say. The Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a commentary on its website on Wednesday that the electric vehicle maker's latest public statement had finally "showed some form of sincerity and humility".
"China welcomes companies to come and invest, but we treat all companies equally. They must abide by Chinese laws and regulations, market rules and respect consumer rights," the commentary said.
Emphasizing the fairness of the "rule of law", the commentary published noted that the identification of the defects should be based on evidence provided by both parties.
The Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee posted a commentary on its WeChat account saying that Tesla should respect Chinese consumers and comply with local laws and regulations.
"Making an effort to find the cause of problems and improve features is something any responsible business should do, and Tesla apparently hasn't realized that," it said.
Roy Lu, director of the Gasgoo Auto Research Institute, said the issue and the way Tesla is dealing with it will harm its image and sales.
"It is everywhere on the internet, and potential customers may start to become careful with the brand. You see the owners are complaining about its vehicle quality, and it shows no respect for them. Surely its sales will be hurt."