Automobile

Tesla expands China PR, legal teams after setbacks

After initially enjoying a big welcome in China, including being the only foreign automaker allowed to wholly own its local operation, Tesla has endured a series of setbacks this year. A protest by a disgruntled owner at the Shanghai auto show in April went viral on social media and was followed by a spate of crashes and regulatory scrutiny of safety and customer service issues.

Data released last week showed Tesla’s shipments of China-made cars to the local market plunged 69 percent in July from June to just 8,621 vehicles. China is Tesla’s second-biggest market outside the U.S., and key to its growth plans.

The expanding government and media relations presence in China contrasts with Tesla’s approach in the U.S., where CEO Elon Musk’s prolific tweeting is the main avenue for communications, with the local PR team largely disbanded.

The California-based company is also beefing up its legal team in China where it faces a tougher regulatory environment — advertising for a data-privacy protection lawyer, an anti-trust lawyer, an engineering lawyer and an after-sales lawyer.

Earlier this year, five regulators summoned Tesla representatives over quality and safety issues. Its cars have also been banned from some military complexes over concern their cameras may be collecting sensitive information.

The government last week said intelligent-vehicle makers will be required to store locally generated data within the country, the latest step in a broader regulatory crackdown on business. 

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