Tesla owners in big cities across China are protesting against the carmaker’s price cuts, overshadowing the company’s efforts to revive sales in the world’s largest electric vehicle market.
Tesla announced the cuts for its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles on Friday, slashing prices to Rmb229,900 ($34,000) and Rmb259,900, respectively. The carmaker had already cut prices previously in October.
The cuts prompted Tesla owners to picket the automaker’s showrooms and delivery centres in cities including Shanghai, Wuhan and Shenzhen over the weekend, according to people who took part in the protests.
A group of more than 60 car owners, upset that their cars have lost a significant amount of value, chanted slogans such as “Tesla lied to customers” and “Protect consumers’ legal rights” in front of Tesla’s distribution centre in Wuhan on Sunday, showed a video taken by a protester and shared with the Financial Times.
The protests come as Tesla is confronted with slowing EV sales in China. The company is also increasingly facing fierce competition from domestic rivals including BYD and Li Auto.
Tesla’s price cuts, which are as high as 13.5 per cent depending on the model, might not be enough to keep hold of top spot in the EV market, said analysts. “Tesla needs to further cut prices and expand its sales network in China’s lower-tier cities,” said Shi Ji, an auto analyst with China Merchants Bank International.
Grace Tao, Tesla’s vice-president for external affairs, said in a social media post on Friday that the cuts relied on “engineering innovations”. She added: “We answer the call of the country to stimulate economic growth and unleash consumption potential.”
Li, a Tesla owner who provided only his surname for fear of being investigated by police, joined more than 20 other car owners to stage a protest at Tesla’s delivery centre in the eastern city of Wenzhou on Sunday.
“Tesla is lowering its prestige as a premium EV brand by cutting prices time after time,” said Li, who owns a Model 3.
“A Tesla salesperson told me that they intended to raise prices in the second of 2022, so I scrambled to place an order. I feel myself being lied to.”
Li said the protesters handed over a list of demands to Tesla to compensate for the price drop. The list included a lifetime subscription to the EV maker’s self-driving services and a three-year extension of car insurance. Li said the company promised to give them a response by Tuesday.
Ling, a Chengdu-based Tesla owner who asked to be identified by a nickname, told the FT that he bought a Model 3 vehicle in October.
“I feel like I’m a joke while driving my Tesla on the road now,” Ling said. “I’m so upset that I even started considering getting a new car from a different brand.”
Tesla declined to comment on the protests.