Tesla Urged Chinese Government To Censor Critics In China

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Outside of the company's unwavering fanboys, it's fairly clear to most folks that the honeymoon phase of the planet's relationship with Tesla is coming to a close. Whether it's regulatory scrutiny of the company's premature and often inaccurate self-driving claims, the loss of significant emissions credits in the US and Europe, frustration at the often stupid shit that comes out of Elon Musks' mouth, legal issues related to the SolarCity acquisition, or major quality headaches related to the company's solar installations and cars alike, the bloom has, as they say, fallen from the rose.

That also extends to China, where Tesla's early successes appear to have hit a bit of a roadblock. Part of that roadblock recently emerged in the form of a massive recall of nearly every Tesla sold in China due to software issues. Responding to bipartisan US aggressiveness (see: TikTok), the Chinese government has also banned all Teslas from being used by government agencies, citing potential privacy natsec concerns. After initially rolling out the red carpet, Chinese officials have sharply shifted their tone over the better part of the last year.

As Bloomberg notes, genuine concerns about Tesla safety, government anger over Tesla hubris, and a souring US/China relationship appear to have fused into one big headache for the company:

"Tesla’s experience is “a warning shot that they need to stay between the lines, and not be so flamboyant in their success,” said Bill Russo, a former Chrysler executive who’s now chief executive officer of Automobility Ltd., a Shanghai-based consultancy. “You can’t be so far up front that you become arrogant in the way you conduct yourself.”...

Signals of a tougher stance toward Tesla came as early as February, when agencies including the State Administration for Market Regulation, China’s most important market watchdog, summoned executives to discuss what they said were quality and safety issues in Tesla vehicles, including reports of abnormal acceleration and battery fires. After the meeting, Tesla issued a statement so apologetic it verged on groveling, declaring it had “sincerely accepted the guidance of government departments” and “deeply reflected on shortcomings."

To counter the shift, Tesla has engaged in a massive new PR push on social platforms, and some newfound groveling at the feet of Chinese authorities. But Bloomberg buries a troubling part of said groveling in a throwaway sentence halfway into the story. Namely the fact that Tesla went so far as to ask the Chinese government to use its immense censorship apparatus to censor company critics online:

Previously focused on state-run media, Tesla is now trying to build relationships with auto-industry publications and influencers on platforms such as Weibo and WeChat, for example by inviting them on factory tours, and conducting group “discussion sessions” with policymakers, consumers, and media outlets. According to people familiar with the matter, it’s also complained to the government over what it sees as unwarranted attacks on social media, and asked Beijing to use its censorship powers to block some of the posts."

Asking the government to censor online criticism of your products isn't likely going to do much to shift public sentiment back in Tesla's favor. Again, Tesla's now facing what's probably a combination of legitimate anger over the company's documented hubris, exaggerated promises, and potential safety issues, fused with China's over-arching policy goal of empowering its own electric car makers (Nio, Xpeng) and countering growing US animosity. Combined, they've resulted in a 50% drop in new Tesla orders in China over just the last few weeks.

I get the sense in the coming year that Tesla (and its unwavering devotees) will focus entirely on the latter (the government is unfairly targeting us for being American!) and less on the obvious need, both overseas and here in the States, for a dramatic fix for the company's product quality issues, ridiculous hype, and less than flattering executive character flaws.

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Filed Under: censorship, china, critics, elon musk, great firewall
Companies: tesla


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2021 @ 12:35pm

    Why does Tech Dirt hate space?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2021 @ 2:31pm

      Re:

      Techdirt doesn't hate space. Karl Bode hates Elon Musk. To an irrational extent, so much so that he write total garbage that doesn't stand the slightest scrutiny. Mixed in with worthwhile reporting, unfortunately, so you can't really justify just ignoring him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2021 @ 3:02pm

        Karl Bode hates Elon Musk.

        understandable, have a nice day

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2021 @ 3:12pm

          Re:

          Understandable? Perhaps, if you're a bigot. Justifiable? No way in hell. When he reports on Elon Musk, Karl Bode becomes almost as dishonest as Tucker Carlson.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2021 @ 3:16pm

            Awww, someone’s upset at another person spitting in the direction of the ruling class! Who’s a good little bootlicker? You are! Yes, you!

            (fuck Elon Musk, the jackass deserves mockery and scorn)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2021 @ 3:39pm

            Re: Re:

            Bigot? Explain that one.

            Dishonest? Explain that also.

            I am no longer sure if you guys react to criticism of Musk or his projects, or if you just get upset when his fanbase gets called out.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Bloof (profile), 13 Jul 2021 @ 4:00pm

            Re: Re:

            Elon Musk does not love you. Elon Musk is not your flawless tech Daddy that's above criticism. Elon Musk is not planning to take you to mars no matter how often you lick his boots. Elon Musk is not Tony Stark made real, he's Peter Thiel with a cult of personality.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jul 2021 @ 5:08pm

              Hey now, that’s not fair!

              I’m pretty sure that, unlike Peter Thiel, Elon Musk is not an actual vampire.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                OGquaker, 13 Jul 2021 @ 11:25pm

                Who cares if pigmys put on Musk's pants two legs at a time?

                GM has spent almost a lifetime delivering electric automobiles to the American people; 1913 GMC electric truck Division 113 units, 1966 Electrovair-II one unit, 1975 Electrovette (10 units?), 1985 S10 electric PU ~200 units, 1987 Sunraycer one unit, 1991 ImPact, a few units, 1996 EV1 900-1000 units all recalled, 2010 Bob Lutz's Volt 80,000 units. And GM provides thousands of free leases on their Pathway e-cars (21 mph golf carts) to satisfy California's minimum e-car requirements.
                Boeing has spent the last 50 years delivering access to space by and for the American people, with 100% Govm't sub-sy-die. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiYhQtGpRhc

                Bob Lutz, the guy who bought Exide, contaminated 100sq.mi. of south Los Angeles, killed their Ni-Fe battery, and fled.
                GM 2002: Every one you sell, you're going to have to sell at a loss," Larry Burns, GM vice president of research, development and planning, told Reuters news agency. The goal is to "sell as many as you possibly can in three years and pocket the credits, because they're not going to go away. California is never going to stop their pursuit of zero emission vehicles.

                Discalmer: i have parts of the only American orbital rocket NOT built or designed for US military use on E-bay, and built a electric car factory in 1995, destroyed by GM e-car patents and Hollywood's scuttling of "Water World" (my investor)

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        techflaws (profile), 14 Jul 2021 @ 9:49am

        Re: Re:

        To an irrational extent, so much so that he write total garbage
        that doesn't stand the slightest scrutiny.

        But to the extent of calling someone who doesn't fall for his bullshit and totally unworkable PR move 'pedo guy' in front of his millions of followers?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bobvious, 13 Jul 2021 @ 3:41pm

      Re: Why does Techdirt hate space?

      Because some people seem to have an excessive abundance of it between their ears.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Christenson, 13 Jul 2021 @ 7:11pm

      Re: Hating Space???

      Sir,
      I think you confuse Mr Bode's reasonably clear crystal ball with your feelings.

      Tesla has definite quality issues, and almost certainly has overpromised and will under deliver on self-driving mode.

      If he wants to produce a seriously great car, he needs to open himself to honest reporting of issues, and there's a lot of evidence that what is happening here is anything but that.

      There's even a few stories of internal whistleblowers having bad things happen to them.

      And, I have no idea how he intends to resolve the security issues that his opaque, completely software-controlled car can be updated over the public internet. Just wait until a Tesla gets bricked, or ransomware'd.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 13 Jul 2021 @ 1:33pm

    "Tesla issued a statement so apologetic it verged on groveling, declaring it had “sincerely accepted the guidance of government departments” and “deeply reflected on shortcomings." "

    I guess they were worrying about getting charged?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nick-B, 13 Jul 2021 @ 2:15pm

    Wow, when you are asking CHINA to censor more than they already are, something is wrong with your company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 13 Jul 2021 @ 2:30pm

    What could go wrong?

    'People are saying mean things about us online, what's the best way to respond to that?'

    'Hmm... I've got it! Let's have an oppressive government use their censorship powers to silence the people saying those mean things, that'll definitely help our reputation!

    'Brilliant, that'll certainly do the trick and could in no way backfire horribly and just make things worse!'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2021 @ 2:38pm

    a massive recall of nearly every Tesla sold in China

    Otherwise known as an over-the-air update. Cost to Tesla: almost nothing. From Tesla owners I've heard that the acceleration when autopilot is engaged is rather mild and extremely unlikely to cause an accident, so even calling it a "safety fix" is going a bit far. The "fix", if I understood correctly, is to give an audible warning if autopilot is engaged. Hardly an earth-shaking development.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2021 @ 3:11pm

      Re: a massive recall of nearly every Tesla sold in China

      have to admit, mild acceleration during autopilot is much better than the car suddenly ignoring any input signals from the accelerator or the ignition switch, like some cars one could mention.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2021 @ 3:58pm

    Maybe tesla never heard of the Streisand effect,
    But any big company knows you literally have to kowtow to the government or else you may suddenly find your product has no market in China
    It's alot cheaper to hire pr than to fix complex technical problems with an electric car
    Maybe it was all fixed with a software update
    ,, I'm not a tesla auto expert

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jamie, 13 Jul 2021 @ 4:35pm

    This guy is hilarious

    I love Musk. Endless whiny bitching about government regulation while scamming the USG out of a constant stream of money for bullshit tunnels, and now throwing himself at any lickable anus attached to a Party Man in China.

    Truly a Howard Roark.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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