Tesla Inc apologized to Chinese consumers for failing to address customer complaints in a timely manner, and said it would launch a review of its service operations in the world’s largest car market.
Tesla’s unusual public apology followed criticism in the state media, and an incident at the Shanghai auto show that received widespread social media coverage in China. An unhappy customer by burying Tesla’s head at the auto show to protest that the company has dealt with its complaints about malfunctioning brakes.
Videos that went viral on Monday showed a woman wearing a T-shirt adorned with the words “The brakes don’t work” and shouting similar allegations while staff and security found her restoring calm.
The trouble for Tesla in China overlapped with new questions in the United States about the safety of the company’s semi-automated driving systems. Police in Texas are investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S that hit a tree and burst into flames.
Rescuers found victims in the passenger seat and back, not the driver’s seat. Federal regulators are investigating the crash, and a total of 24 probes are under way in accidents involving Teslas operating on Autopilot.
Tesla sells about 30% of its cars in China, made at its factory in Shanghai. But it has faced occasional criticism over issues such as complaints about battery fires.
Monday’s incident led the state broadcaster CCTV to call for an investigation into reported brake problems on Tesla cars, while China’s anti-graft watchdog weighed in with commentary saying such disputes should be resolved within control the law.
“Individuals should not take extreme measures, and initiatives should not be arrogant and unreasonable,” the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection said late Tuesday.
On Wednesday, a representative at Tesla’s Zhengzhou store, where the protesting customer came from, told local state media that the automaker will share data related to the brake incident with local market regulators for investigation .
Tesla said on Monday that the woman was the owner of a vehicle that had been involved in a collision earlier this year. He referred to “speeding offenses” about the accident, adding in a social media statement that he had been in discussions with her about returning the car, but the talks had stopped over a third-party inspection.
Last month, Tesla came under scrutiny in China when the army banned its cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns about 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 North America.
The woman who started her protest will be detained for five days, Shanghai police said on Tuesday.
Police said the woman and a female helper – 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 at a consumer dispute.”
Zhang was ordered held in custody for “violating public order,” while Li received a caution, police said. Zhang and Li could not be contacted for comment.