SHANGHAI, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Hundreds of Teslas (TSLA.O) Owners gathered at the automaker’s showrooms and distribution centers in China over the weekend to demand discounts and credits after sudden price cuts, which they said meant they were overpaying for electric cars they had previously purchased.
On Saturday, nearly 200 new buyers of Tesla Model Y and Model 3 gathered at a Tesla delivery center in Shanghai 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 had charged for its cars last year won’t be cut as abruptly or as deeply as the automaker just announced to boost sales and boost production at its Shanghai plant. The planned expiration of a government subsidy at the end of 2022 has also prompted many to complete their purchases.
Videos posted on social media show crowds at Tesla stores and distribution centers in other cities in China, from Chengdu to Shenzhen, signaling a broader consumer backlash.
After surprise discounts on Friday, Tesla’s EV prices in China are now between 13% and 24% below their September levels.
Analysts said Tesla’s move would boost sales, which fell in December, and force other EV makers to cut prices at a time when demand is declining in the world’s largest battery-powered car market.
While established automakers often give discounts to manage inventory and keep factories running when demand weakens, Tesla operates without dealerships and transparent pricing has been part of its brand image.
“This may be normal business practice, but a responsible business shouldn’t behave that way,” said a Tesla owner who gave his last name Zhang and protested at the company’s delivery center in the Shanghai suburb of Minhang on Saturday.
He and other Tesla owners, who said they took delivery in the last months of 2022, said they were frustrated that Friday’s price cut was abrupt and Tesla did not make an announcement to end buyers.
Zhang said police facilitated a meeting between Tesla staff and the assembled owners, in which the owners handed an apology and a list of demands, including compensation or other credits. He added that Tesla staff agreed to respond by Tuesday.
About a dozen police officers were seen at the Shanghai protest, and many of the videos of other demonstrations also showed a large police presence at Tesla facilities.
Protests are not uncommon in China, where large numbers of people have come forward over the years over issues such as financial or property fraud, but after widespread protests in Chinese cities and top universities, authorities are on higher alert. Against COVID-19 restrictions in November.
‘GET BACK THE MONEY’
Other videos that appear to be from the Tesla owners’ protest were also posted on Chinese social media platforms on Saturday.
A video that Reuters confirmed was filmed at a Tesla store in the southwestern city of Chengdu showed a crowd chanting “Return the money, return our cars”.
Another, apparently filmed in Beijing, shows police cars arriving in front of a Tesla store to disperse the crowd.
Reuters was unable to confirm the content of either video.
A Tesla China spokesperson told Reuters on Saturday that Tesla does not plan to compensate buyers who receive the delivery before the latest price cut.
When asked to comment on the protests, he did not respond.
China accounted for about a third of Tesla’s global sales in 2021, and the Shanghai factory, employing around 20,000 workers, is Tesla’s single most productive and profitable factory.
A year after announcing its next new vehicle, the Cybertruck, analysts were positive about the potential for Tesla’s price cuts to boost sales growth.
“Nowhere else in the world does Tesla face the kind of competitors they have here. [in China]Bill Russo, chairman of the Automobility Ltd consulting firm in Shanghai, said.
“They’re in a much larger EV market with companies that can price more aggressively than they’ve ever been able to do.”
In 2021, Tesla faced a public relations storm after an unhappy customer got into 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 handling complaints in a timely manner.
Reporting: Brenda Goh, Zhang Yan and Casey Hall Editing: Kevin Krolicki and Tomasz Janowski
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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