Hundreds of Tesla owners rallied at the automaker’s showrooms and distribution centers in China over the weekend, demanding rebates and credits after sudden price drops they say meant they overpaid for the electric cars they previously bought.
About 200 recent Tesla Model Y and Model 3 buyers gathered at a Tesla delivery center in Shanghai on Saturday to protest the US automaker’s decision to cut prices for the second time in three months on Friday.
Many said they believed the prices Tesla charged for its cars at the end of last year would not be cut as sharply or deeply as the automaker has just announced in a bid to boost sales and support production at its Shanghai factory. The scheduled expiration of a government subsidy at the end of 2022 has also prompted many people to finalize their purchases.
Videos posted on social media showed crowds at Tesla stores and delivery centers in other Chinese cities from Chengdu to Shenzhen, suggesting a broader consumer reaction.
After Friday’s surprise discounts, Tesla’s electric vehicle prices in China are now between 13% and 24% below September levels.
Analysts said Tesla’s move was likely to boost its sales, which slumped in December, and force other EV makers to cut prices as well at a time when demand is sluggish in the biggest market. world of battery-powered cars.
While established automakers often give discounts to manage inventory and keep factories running when demand falters, Tesla operates without dealerships and transparent pricing is part of its brand image.
“It may be normal business practice, but it’s not how a responsible business should behave,” said a Tesla owner protesting outside the company’s delivery center in suburban Las Vegas on Saturday. Minhang in Shanghai, who gave his last name as Zhang.
He and other Tesla owners, who said they took delivery in the later months of 2022, said they were frustrated by Friday’s sharp price drop and Tesla’s lack of explanation to recent buyers.
Zhang said police arranged a meeting between Tesla staff and the assembled owners, where the owners handed over a list of demands, including an apology and compensation or other credits. He added that the Tesla team had agreed to respond by Tuesday.
A dozen police officers could be seen at the Shanghai protest, and most videos from other protests also showed a large police presence at Tesla locations.
Protests are not uncommon in China, which over the years has seen people demonstrate in large numbers over issues such as financial or property fraud, but authorities are more vigilant after widespread protests in Chinese cities and key universities in late November against Covid-19 restrictions. 19.
Other videos showing Tesla owners protesting were also posted on Chinese social media platforms on Saturday.
One video, which Reuters verified was filmed at a Tesla store in the country’s southwestern city of Chengdu, showed a crowd chanting: “Give back the money, give back our cars.”
Another, which appeared to have been filmed in Beijing, showed police cars arriving to disperse the crowd outside a Tesla store.
Reuters was unable to verify the content of any of the videos.
Tesla does not plan to compensate buyers who took delivery before the latest price drop, a Tesla China spokesman told Reuters on Saturday.
He did not respond when asked to comment on the protests.
China accounted for about a third of Tesla’s global sales in 2021 and its Shanghai factory, which employs around 20,000 workers, is its most productive and profitable plant.
Analysts are bullish on the potential for Tesla’s price cuts to spur sales growth with a year to go before the announcement of its next new vehicle, the Cybertruck.
“Nowhere else in the world does Tesla face the kind of competition they have here. [in China]said Bill Russo, director of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automobility Ltd..
“They are in a much larger EV market with companies that can price more aggressively than they have, until now.”
In 2021, Tesla faced a PR firestorm after a disgruntled customer drove a car at the Shanghai Auto Show to protest the company’s handling of complaints about his car’s brakes. .
Tesla responded by apologizing to Chinese consumers for not responding to complaints in a timely manner.