Hundreds of Tesla owners gathered at the automaker’s showrooms and distribution centers in China over the weekend to demand rebates and loans after a sudden price cut meant they were paying more for the electric cars they previously bought.
About 200 new Tesla Model Y and Model 3 buyers gathered at a Tesla delivery center in Shanghai on Saturday to protest the US automaker’s decision to cut prices for the second time in three months on Friday.
Many said they believed Tesla’s asking prices for its cars would not be cut as sharply or deeply as the automaker announced late last year to boost sales and support production at its Shanghai plant. The planned expiration of the government subsidy at the end of 2022 has also prompted many to finalize their purchases.
Videos posted on social media showed crowds at Tesla stores and delivery centers in other Chinese cities from Chengdu to Shenzhen, suggesting a broader consumer response.
After surprise discounts on Friday, Tesla’s EV prices in China are between 13% and 24% lower than September levels.
Analysts said Tesla’s move would boost its sales, which fell in December, and force other EV makers to cut prices at a time when demand in the world’s largest battery car market has weakened.
While established automakers often take discounts to manage inventory and keep factories running when demand weakens, Tesla operates without dealers, and transparent pricing is part of its brand image.
“This may be a normal business practice, but a responsible enterprise should not behave like this,” said a Tesla owner who protested at the company’s delivery center in the Shanghai suburb of Minhang, who gave his surname as Zhang, on Saturday.
He and other Tesla owners who said they took delivery in the final months of 2022 said they were disappointed Friday that the price cut was sudden and that Tesla did not provide an explanation to end-buyers.
Zhang said police facilitated a meeting between Tesla employees and the assembled owners, where the owners issued a list of demands, including an apology, compensation or other credits. He added that Tesla employees had agreed to respond by Tuesday.
About ten police officers could be seen at the Shanghai protest, and most videos of other demonstrations also showed a large police presence at Tesla sites.
Protests are not uncommon in China, where people have turned out in large numbers over the years over issues such as financial or property scams, but authorities are on heightened alert after widespread protests in Chinese cities and at the world’s top universities. November against Covid-19 restrictions.
Other videos of what appeared to be protesting Tesla owners were also posted on Chinese social media platforms on Saturday.
In a video confirmed by Reuters, taken at Tesla’s store in the southwestern city of Chengdu, the crowd chanted “Return the money, return our cars.”
Another, which appears to have been filmed in Beijing, showed police cars arriving to break up a crowd outside a Tesla store.
Reuters was unable to verify the content of either video.
A Tesla China spokesman told Reuters on Saturday that Tesla does not plan to compensate buyers who took delivery before the latest price cut.
Although he was asked to comment on the protests, he did not respond.
China will account for about a third of Tesla’s global sales in 2021, and its Shanghai factory, with about 20,000 workers, is its most productive and profitable.
Analysts are bullish on the potential for Tesla’s price cuts to spur sales growth with a year to go before the announcement of its next new vehicle, the Cybertruck.
“Nowhere in the world has Tesla faced such competitors as here [in China]Bill Russo, head of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automobility Ltd, said.
“They’re in a much bigger EV market with companies that can price more aggressively than they’ve ever known.”
In 2021, Tesla faced a public relations firestorm at the Shanghai Auto Show after an unhappy customer climbed on top of the car to protest its handling of complaints about its brakes.
Tesla has apologized to Chinese consumers for not resolving complaints in a timely manner.