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.
It could be argued that a large portion of the Chinese economy has been propped up by government programs, with electric vehicles making one of the best examples. With a vested interest in battery technology, China did everything it could to encourage industry players to focus on EVs while subsidizing their purchase by consumers. The end result was a country with the highest number of alternative-energy vehicles in the world — and more automotive automotive startups than it knew what to do with.
While the plan was always to force accelerated competition by getting new manufacturing firms to duke it out for supremacy, EV sales were also supposed to remain sky high. Yet they didn’t. China’s auto market began running out of steam far earlier than everyone assumed. When the country nixed electric-vehicle subsidies over the summer, the segment went into a tailspin, with every successive month returning negative growth.
China would like to see things turn around, so it’s mulling the prospect of reintroducing incentives to get EVs into more driveways.
We’ve mentioned Chinese startups working on electric vehicles in the past. You’ve got the American-based (but Chinese-owned) Faraday Future that couldn’t pay its bills, its big brother LeSEE (which is facing similar troubles), the performance-focused NIO, the luxury-minded Byton, the German-named Weltmeister, and a handful of others making ink every so often.
While EV startups from other countries (Tesla, Rimac, etc.) garner their own headlines, it’s more common to see a Chinese startup angling for media exposure as of late.
Of course, established automakers are busy setting up their own electric divisions to fulfill the nearly absent Western consumer demand for EVs. They’re gambling on a future where electrification replaces internal combustion, but nobody is betting more on “green” than China. As of today, it’s estimated that the country has 487 electric car companies, and the nation feels this still isn’t enough. Holy shit.