SHANGHAI, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Hundreds of Tesla (TSLA.O) owners gathered at the automaker’s showrooms and distribution centers in China over the weekend, demanding discounts and credits after sudden price drops which they said meant they had overpaid for the electric cars they had purchased. earlier.
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 have said they believe the prices Tesla charged for its cars late last year would not be cut as sharply or as deeply as the automaker just announced in a bid to boost sales and to support production at its Shanghai factory. The scheduled expiry 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 backlash.
After Friday’s surprise discounts, prices for Tesla’s electric vehicles in China are now between 13% and 24% below their September levels.
Analysts said Tesla’s move was likely to boost its sales, which tumbled in December, and force other EV makers to also cut prices at a time when demand is waning in the biggest market. world of battery-powered cars.
While established automakers often discount 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 company should behave,” a Tesla owner protesting outside the company’s delivery center in the suburb of Las Vegas said on Saturday. Minhang in Shanghai, who gave his surname as Zhang.
He and other Tesla owners, who said they took delivery in the final months of 2022, said they were frustrated with the sharpness of Friday’s price drop and Tesla’s lack of an explanation to recent buyers.
Zhang said police arranged a meeting between Tesla staff and the reunited owners where the owners handed over a list of demands, including an apology and compensation or other credits. He added that Tesla staff 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 sites.
Protests are not uncommon in China, which over the years has seen people come out in large numbers over issues such as financial or real estate scams, but authorities have been more vigilant after widespread protests in Chinese cities and top universities at the end of November against COVID-19 restrictions.
‘RETURN THE MONEY’
Other videos appearing to show Tesla owners protesting were also posted on Chinese social media platforms on Saturday.
A video, which Reuters has verified was filmed at a Tesla store in the southwestern city of Chengdu, showed a crowd chanting: “Give back the money, refund our cars”.
Another, which appeared to have been filmed in Beijing, showed police cars arriving to disperse crowds outside a Tesla store.
Reuters was unable to verify the content of either video.
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 about 20,000 workers, is its most productive and profitable plant.
Analysts have been positive about the potential for Tesla’s price cuts to spur sales growth at a time when there is still a year to go after announcing its next new vehicle, the Cybertruck.
“Nowhere else in the world does Tesla face the kind of competitors they have here [in China]“, said Bill Russo, director of the consultancy Automobility Ltd in Shanghai.
“They’re in a much larger EV market with companies that can price more aggressively than they can, so far.”
In 2021, Tesla faced a public relations storm after a disgruntled customer rode 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.
Reporting by Brenda Goh, Zhang Yan and Casey Hall Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Tomasz Janowski
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