Electronic vehicle (EV) market leader Tesla ran into its first entanglement with the Chinese regulatory bodies. On June 26th, CNBC reported that almost 300,000 Model 3 and Model Y cars are being recalled by the regulators. 249,855 Model 3 and Model Y cars were made in China. The remaining 35,665 were imported Model 3 sedans. The recall was done to update software related to assisted driving. Owners would not need to return their vehicles since the issue could be fixed through an online update.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Tesla made a statement on the Chinese social media platform, Weibo, in apology. Tesla said, “We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this recall to all car owners. Tesla will continue to improve safety in strict accordance with national requirements.”
Tesla has had some major recall announcements in the past. The first major one was in 2015 when 60,000 Model S cars were recalled due to a potential issue with the seatbelt mechanism in the front seats. In 2017, Tesla made two recalls for Model S and Model X for a potential problem with the internal gear in the electric parking brake assembly.
The incident that led to the latest recall was reported by CCP-backed The Global Times when a Tesla car crashed against a column in a car park on May 25 when it apparently accelerated on its own. This raised concerns about potential issues with the brakes in Tesla cars.
The State Administration for Market Regulation stated that the recall was due to the assisted driving function in electric cars. It can be activated by drivers accidentally resulting in unexpected acceleration.
According to the article from Global Times, the accident had occurred when the driver of the car was parking his Model Y. The car quickly accelerated on its own and crashed against a column, resulting in serious damage and full airbag deployment.
The driver said, “I was pressing the gas pedal lightly to find a parking lot but the car suddenly accelerated. Before I knew it, the car hit a column. Everything happened in two seconds.. I no longer feel safe driving this car… I’m not the only one. So many car owners have the same problem. The system must be defective.”
Tesla responded to the incident stating that they were unable to find any fault with the car’s braking system and that the accident was caused by human error.
Tesla stated, “After reviewing the available data, it showed that the driver pressed on the accelerator to reach a maximum speed of 21.68 km per hour before the incident and the driver did not press the brake before the collision.”
The Global Times had also reported that this was one of many rising claims that involved accidental acceleration in Tesla cars. Earlier in April this year, the media tweeted a video of a woman protesting on top of a Tesla car on display at the Shanghai auto show.
The woman wore a white T-shirt with “Brake Lost Control,” in Chinese. She claimed that her family members were almost killed in an accident where her Model 3 Tesla brakes had failed. Shine News reported that Tesla responded by saying that vehicle data revealed the car was traversing at 75 miles per hour. The car’s braking and emergency-warning systems had, in fact, functioned appropriately.
Tesla is currently manufacturing Model 3 sedans and Model Y sport-utility cars in Shanghai. CNN reported that the global EV automobile leader sold less than 26,000 cars in April, a 27 percent reduction from March sales, as per data released by the China Passenger Car Association.
Tesla hitting brakes in China
Tesla recently paid off its $614 million loan taken from Chinese banks that was used to build the Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai. Netizens speculated that CEO Elon Musk paid off the loan as a prelude to Tesla’s exit from China. The complex business uncertainties are making foreign businesses anxious.
The CCP has been attempting to suppress the company in the country. In April, state-backed media outlets published a series of articles denouncing Tesla following the parking incident. They demanded that Tesla issue an apology. State-backed Economic Daily wrote an article asking for the immediate shutdown of Tesla’s manufacturing. CCTV said Tesla is “out of control.”
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Hong Bo-xue, a scholar from Taiwan said that Beijing was simply using Tesla for its own benefit.
“The CCP has been absorbing international funds and using various deceptions. When it grows stronger, it starts to get rid of the one that helped it. Taiwanese and Japanese businessmen have known this for a long time. Now the CCP has thrust the knife into Tesla, because it has learned to make electric cars and does not need Tesla anymore.”