Tesla China demand slumps, adding to headaches after protest


Tesla Inc.’s growth in China slowed precipitously last month, adding to the company’s headaches after an embarrassing protest at the Shanghai Auto Show and a run of accidents involving its electric cars.

In April, 11,949 China-built Teslas were registered in the country, according to data from state-backed China Automotive Information Net. That’s down sharply from a record 34,714 registrations in March.

Tesla shares fell 2.3% in pre-market trade in the US Representatives for the company in China weren’t immediately able to comment.

Separate data released last week showed Tesla sold 25,845 Chinese-made vehicles in April, down from 35,478 units in March, according to China’s Passenger Car Association. Of the April sales, 14,174 EVs were exported, due in part to demand from the European market, PCA said.

Last month’s slump in local registrations caps a poor run for Elon Musk’s EV pioneer, which until recently had enjoyed a dream stretch since breaking ground on its Shanghai Gigafactory in early 2019 — receiving all-important support from the government and appearing to skirt the tensions between Washington and Beijing.

However, it has lately attracted unwanted publicity, with a disgruntled owner climbing atop one of Tesla’s display vehicles at last month’s auto show, shouting that her car’s brakes had failed, causing an accident. That was quickly followed by two rebukes from government entities, saying the electric-car maker should respect Chinese consumers and comply with local laws.

This week, a traffic policeman was killed and another injured in a crash involving a Tesla. Another accident earlier this month is also still under investigation in China after a Tesla rear-ended a truck, killing the driver of the EV, according to a Global Times report. The cause of that crash isn’t yet clear.

While hundreds of people die on China’s roads each day, accidents involving Tesla’s attract intense public interest, with footage quickly going viral on social media.

The slump in April registrations is a reversal from the first quarter, when demand from Chinese buyers helped Tesla report estimate-smashing deliveries, which prompted analyst Dan Ives at Wedbush to note that the “eye-popping” numbers coming out of China can’t be ignored.

Tesla shares have declined 18% this year, giving back some of last year’s blistering 743% rally.