SHANGHAI – Hundreds of Tesla owners gathered at the automaker’s showrooms and distribution centers in China over the weekend, demanding rebates and credit after sudden price cuts they said meant they had overpaid for electric vehicles they bought earlier.
On Saturday, about 200 recent buyers of the Tesla Model Y and Model 3 gathered at a Tesla delivery center in Shanghai to protest against the U.S. carmaker’s decision to slash prices for the second time in three months on Friday.
Many said they had believed that prices Tesla charged for EVs late last year would not be cut as abruptly or as deeply as the automaker just announced in a move to spur sales and support production at a Shanghai assembly plant. The scheduled expiration of a government subsidy at the end of 2022 also drove 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 wider consumer backlash.
After Friday’s surprise discounts, Tesla’s EV prices in China are now between 13 percent and 24 percent below their September levels.
Analysts have said Tesla’s move was likely to boost its sales, which tumbled in December, and force other EV makers to cut prices too at a time of faltering demand in the world’s largest market for battery-powered cars.
“Price cuts are part of this EV cycle in a softer (economy) with competition increasing in China,” Daniel Ives, an analyst who follows Tesla at Wedbush Morgan, said in a tweet on Friday.
While established automakers often discount to manage inventory and keep factories running when demand weakens, Tesla operates without dealerships and transparent pricing has been part of its brand image.
“It may be a normal business practice but this is not how a responsible enterprise should behave,” said one Tesla owner protesting at the company’s delivery centre in Shanghai’s Minhang suburb on Saturday who gave his surname as Zhang.
He and the other Tesla owners, who said they had taken delivery in the final months of 2022, said they were frustrated with the abruptness of Friday’s price cut and Tesla’s lack of an explanation to recent buyers.
Zhang said police facilitated a meeting between Tesla staff and the assembled owners at which the owners handed over a list of demands, including an apology and compensation or other credits. He added the Tesla staff had agreed to respond by Tuesday.
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