Tesla recalls hundreds of imported Model 3 cars in China in another trouble with quality issues
- US carmaker to recall imported Model 3s produced in 2019 for seat belt, loose bolts issues, China’s market regulator said in a statement
- Tesla’s sales in China slipped 27 per cent in April from March amid its troubles with consumers, regulator
The State Administration for Market Regulations said on Thursday that 311 of the cars manufactured in 2019 from January 12 to November 20 were found to have seat belt issues, posing injury risks to passengers in the event of a collision.
Another 423 cars built by the California-based carmaker between February 2 and November 20 that year are also being recalled due to loose bolts that could cause tyre-related problems while heightening risks of collision, the market regulator added in the statement.
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“The latest recall could deter more mainland consumers from buying its cars because they are battered by worries over quality and safety issues,” said Chen Jinzhu, chief executive of Shanghai Mingliang Auto Service. “It will be a tough year for Tesla to expand its market share in China.”
The affected imported units made it to the mainland market as Tesla’s popularity grew abroad. The rising demand prompted chief executive Elon Musk to splash US$2 billion on its Gigafactory 3 in Lingang near Shanghai to capture local demand. Tesla began delivering its Shanghai-made Model 3s in January 2020, and Model Y SUVs earlier this year.
The sharp drop in Tesla’s China sales followed a run-in with Chinese authorities and customers over the quality and safety of its locally built cars. The carmaker had a war of words with PingWest at the end of 2020 as the Chinese tech news outlet labelled its Shanghai factory a “Giga-sweatshop” and accused it of using substandard components. Tesla threatened to sue it for spreading false information.
Tesla executives were also grilled by senior regulatory officials about the quality of the company’s Model 3s in February amid a wave of unpleasant social media posts from car owners. The manufacturer has rejected claims that the safety or quality of its vehicles had been compromised in any way.
Tesla, now the runaway front-runner in China’s premium electric vehicle segment, also faced a social-media backlash from Chinese customers. It followed an April 19 incident when a woman, in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “brake malfunction” and a Tesla logo, jumped on a Tesla on display at the Shanghai Auto Show, to blame the firm for her Model 3 crash.
Tesla initially stood by its quality but later bowed to regulators and customers’ pressure. It apologised to the woman two days later, before releasing the data log of the car to her.
In October 2020, Tesla made its biggest recall involving two of its bestselling models sold in China. It took back 30,000 Model X SUVs and Model S liftback sedans produced in the US between September 2013 and January 2018 to fix faulty suspensions.
In the JD Power 2020 China New Energy Vehicle Experience Index Study published in September, Tesla was ranked the second-best battery-powered electric vehicle after NIO, an EV start-up believed to have the potential to challenge Tesla.