Tesla 'Recalling' 285,000 Vehicles in China Over Autopilot Issue

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The Chinese Communist Party seems to have it out for Tesla. Following bans that prohibited the brand’s vehicles from parking themselves anywhere near a military base, China’s government has decided to recall over 285,000 Tesla automobiles sold in the country. We’ve also seen state-run media outlets begin branding the automaker as irresponsible and arrogant amid consumer protests some are concerned might have been staged for political reasons. Though it’s painfully hard to get inside the head of the CCP while you hope for concrete evidence of any of the above. Propagandizing and censorship have reached a level where just about everyone is having difficulties distinguishing up from down.

What is certain, however, is that Tesla’s regional volume has taken a noteworthy hit in 2021 despite sales more than doubling the previous year. While this may have nothing to do with the bad publicity and recall campaigns, we’re betting the latest example — which pertains to customers misusing Autopilot — won’t help matters.

Over the weekend, Bloomberg reported that the State Administration for Market Regulation had recalled 211,256 examples of the Model 3 and 38,599 examples of the Model Y manufactured inside China — in addition to 35,665 imported units. The government expressed concerns that the vehicles’ autopilot systems could be turned on automatically, suggesting that this could result in the vehicle acting in a way drivers wouldn’t anticipate. Tesla is complying with the safety recall and explained over Chinese social media that most of the repairs could be conducted via over-the-air updates.

The recall encompasses just about every Tesla model manufactured in China and is encouraging a lot of questions about how much of this is political after the CCP alleged its vehicles could be used for espionage. While there’s certainly room to entertain that scenario, Autopilot has fallen under similarly harsh criticism in the West and Tesla has been forced to issue a few recalls recently. The latest pertained to loose brake bolts and faulty seatbelts, though both were comparatively small in number.

Meanwhile, Tesla has been issuing apologies in China fairly regularly after the military placed enhanced scrutiny upon the company and protestors descended on the brand’s booth at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. The matter appeared to suppress sales temporarily, while local EV brands (e.g. Nio and Xpeng) gained ground. But things appeared to normalize by June.

Tesla has also been attempting to cater to the Chinese government by issuing routine assurances about Autopilot and the possibility of international spying. It even established a mainland data center to house and track information accumulated within China’s borders. We imagine the future will involve Tesla attempting to ingratiate itself with Chinese authorities in exchange for preferential treatment or the brand bucking that trend and being subject to the continued ire of the CCP.

That does not make some of China’s concerns about vehicular safety irrelevant, however. Automakers have played fast and loose with advanced driving aids and are now implementing insane safety protocols in an effort to transfer accountability. China’s problem with Autopilot may very well be genuine. But the recall details are vague and it’s quite clear that the government would prefer to see its own EV companies ascending rather than handing over domestic volume to an American firm. Exercise whatever amount of skepticism that feels the most comfortable.

[Image: Helloabc/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
5 of 16 comments
  • Ol Shel Ol Shel on Jun 29, 2021

    The Chinese label Tesla as 'irresponsible and arrogant'. What's incorrect about that? Oh, and China got its power because the American 'job creators' send our jobs there so that they could maximize profits and shareholder-class dividends. And American business AGREED to share their technology in exchange for those profits. China didn't steal anything.

    • See 2 previous
    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jun 30, 2021

      @Ol Shel I read about that in a history book. I can read about the Chinese camps in today's news. Yes, we have done some things in our past that we need to atone for. That doesn't give China a pass to lock up a bunch of people for "reeducation". And again, as a "so called job creator", Elon Musk seems to create a lot of jobs.

  • 4runner 4runner on Jun 29, 2021

    Redapple is right - a movement towards complete disengagement is prudent. We already know the ending to this story. The PRC will fail. When it will fail – I cannot say. However, no modern government can survive long without the following: 1. An independent judiciary - a body that make sure, as best possible, that laws are equally applied to all. 2. The ability to expose corruption at the highest levels. This involves a free press. Yes, the press serves its own interests, but it plays an important role in exposing corruption. It is not an organ of the government. 3. The ability to throw the bums out - the PRC has no such mechanism. Those in power have nothing to fear and there is no need to make changes. Yes, the PRC has dodged numerous obstacles and difficulties. However, they rely on an unending supply of cheap labor and the West's voracious appetite for cheap goods. (Essentially, we are exporting inflation and importing deflation.) However, the era of cheap labor and open trade ties with the PRC is ending. The sooner we do, the sooner we can insulate ourselves from the upcoming economic disaster that will be the PRC. Sadly, the greatest victims of the PRC are the Chinese people themselves.

  • Tassos Ford models are like dumb Hollywood movies. The original is far better than their god damned sequels. This was true of the Mustang vs the II, AND the Capri vs its second gen, and their BEV PORKER atrocities many decades later
  • Jeff I would not buy a Chinese car with the current global situation with Taiwan and Ukraine but I believe eventually China will become the number 1 producer of vehicles globally. Lou brought up a valid point that much of the content of new vehicles has components made in China. Even many of the tires that are sold are made in China. Try buying a small appliance or electronics that are not made in China. Many of the electric motors that go in power reclining furniture are made in China. Many auto parts especially replacement parts are made in China.
  • 2ACL Not as bad as some have quipped, but half the appeal of a sport compact is the car on which it's based. The Ion was one of the worst in segment, blunting the outreach of GMPD's work. More marginalization hit in the form of competitors evolving into some of their most compelling interations. $8.5k? KBB tells Joe Average to aim for half that. Within the context of those specifically interested in this model, the magic words for asking more than market seem to be 'Competition Package.' If the best the seller can do in a short ad is vaguely reference aftermarket audio, they don't deserve a premium.
  • The Oracle I can’t wait to see the UAW attempt to organize the Chinese plants when they come.
  • Redapple2 They strove to excel and improve in this era ( on the cheap? ). They gave us Saturnasty and Northstarubish and the F150 grew in dependability and features over the Silveradoffal. -gm- a legacy of utter garbage.