Chinese bloggers claim that they have been threatened with legal action by Tesla for publishing negative content about the US carmaker while beating a wave of bad publicity in the world’s largest car market.
The electric vehicle company set up an account this month on the popular Chinese microblog Weibo for its legal department in China. Some users have stated that the account has been used to send private messages preventing lawsuits for defamation.
Public sentiment in China, one of Tesla’s largest markets, seems to be turning against the California-based carmaker in recent months following a wave of controversy which involves complaints from customers about the alleged malfunctions of the vehicles.
At least two accounts of Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, have published letters in recent days apologizing for the videos referring to Tesla’s non-existent quality issues after they said they had received legal notices from the company’s company. ‘car.
Threatening to use legal means against critics, Tesla will follow an example set by Chinese technology companies including Tencent, which has bloggers cited in the case according to the country’s defamation law.
Such lawsuits often require retraction, apology, and compensation.
“Ruifeng Auto,” one of the accounts, said it “reflected deeply” after posting a video in late May suggesting that the brakes on a new Tesla vehicle had failed before leaving the showroom. The account admitted that the claims had “no factual basis.”
On Wednesday, a woman whose protest at the Shanghai Motor Show in April for an alleged brake failure helped escalate online anger toward Tesla admitted in Jinri Toutiao, a news aggregation app made by ByteDance , owner of TikTok, which had been “extreme” in pushing the company for compensation.
He had previously asked Tesla to pass on the details of his vehicle to regulators and threatened to sue the company if he did not.
The same day, “five-thousand-year-old rabbit,” a blogger who had posted screenshots of messages he said was from Tesla threatening a lawsuit against Jinri Toutiao, apologized to the carmaker for causing any offense. The blogger had called Tesla a “waste society” and accused him of acting like a “hooligan.”
The blogger, who also insisted that he had not fabricated any content related to Tesla, added: “I also hope that not everyone creates hostility. [towards Tesla] due to quality problems and above all we hope that the problem will not be raised to the level [of] discussion between China and the United States. ”
He told the Financial Times that Tesla’s alleged warning had caused “inconvenience to my work and normal life,” but declined to talk more about the matter.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on the activities of its Chinese legal department.
The US group, led by billionaire Elon Musk, has faced, in recent months, an advertising nightmare in China, at a time when growth of competition by local rivals.
Chinese state media criticized Tesla for initially stating that it did not negotiate with people who make unreasonable requests, claiming that it did not take customer complaints seriously after the incident at the Shanghai Motor Show. This prompted the car manufacturer to publicly apologize.
Lei Xing, an independent U.S.-based automobile analyst, compared Tesla’s problems in China to a “soap opera,” with payments appearing daily or weekly.
Tesla leads the sale of high-end passenger vehicles in the electric vehicle market in China. Its sales in the country increased 29 percent each May to 33,463 vehicles, according to data from the China Automobile Association.
Chinese regulators have stepped up scrutiny of the company over national safety and security issues.
In March, some military officials banned Tesla vehicles for fear that their cameras and sensors could be used to collect sensitive data. Tesla has denied that its vehicles were used for spying.
In May, Tesla set up a data center in China to comply with local laws prohibiting the transmission of data outside the country.
Your crucial guide to the billions made and lost in the Asia Tech world. A curated menu of exclusive news, crisp analysis, smart data and the latest buzz techniques from FT and Nikkei