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May 26, 2023
An unhappy customer who invaded the Tesla booth at the Shanghai auto show by clambering atop a car in protest, creating a social media stir and prompting an apology from the company, will be detained for five days, Shanghai police said on Tuesday.
Police said the woman and a female accomplice – identified only by their surnames, Zhang and Li – “caused chaos” at the trade fair on Monday when they arrived at the Tesla display “to express their dissatisfaction due to a consumer dispute.”
Zhang was ordered detained for “disrupting public order,” while Li received a warning, police said.
Videos that went viral on Monday showed Zhang wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “The brakes don’t work” and shouting similar accusations while staff and security struggled to restore calm.
Late on Tuesday, Tesla issued a statement apologizing for not addressing the customer’s complaint in a timely manner, and said it would conduct a self-inspection of its service and operations in China.
Tesla sells roughly 30% of its cars in China, made at its Shanghai factory. But it has faced occasional criticism over issues such as complaints of battery fires.
Monday’s incident led state broadcaster CCTV to call for an investigation of reported brake problems on Tesla cars, while China’s anti-graft watchdog weighed in with a commentary saying such disputes should be resolved within the rule of law.
“Individuals should not take extreme measures, and enterprises should not be arrogant and unreasonable,” the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said late on Tuesday.
Tesla said on Monday that the woman was a vehicle owner who had been involved in a collision earlier this year. It cited “speeding violations” for the crash, adding in a social media statement that it had been negotiating with her about returning the car, but the talks had stalled over a third-party inspection.
Zhang and Li could not be contacted for comment.
The incident continued to attract social media attention on Tuesday, accounting for two of the top 10 trending topics on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
Last month, Tesla came under scrutiny in China when the military banned its cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns over cameras in its vehicles, sources told Reuters.
That prompted founder Elon Musk to say that if Tesla used cameras to spy in China or anywhere, it would be shut down. Earlier this month, Tesla said cameras in its cars are not activated outside of North America.