China’s State Administration for Market Regulation has asked American automaker Tesla to recall 1.6 million Model S, X, 3, and Y vehicles exported to the country. This is the largest recall in China, Tesla’s second biggest market.
The move follows a decision by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall 2 million cars after an investigation linked Tesla’s Autosteer feature to 1,000 crashes. The NHTSA said the feature gives drivers a false sense of security, though Tesla asserts that it is designed to be used by a “fully attentive driver”. The recalled vehicles will have an updated version of the feature that includes frequent reminders to the driver to pay attention.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has pushed back on the use of the word “recall” to describe these updates, which are relatively regular although not typically seen on this scale. When Tesla recalled 363,000 vehicles in February 2023 due to glitches in the Full Self-Driving feature, Musk took to Twitter to lambast the “recall” framing as “anachronistic” and “just flat wrong”.
An influential Chinese tech blogger (@互联网俊明, 5 million Weibo followers) echoed Musk’s sentiment on 5 January when news of the China recall hit social media. Posting on Weibo, he wrote, “Tesla’s recall is like software updates for computers and mobile phones. [The recall] shows the company is responsible…it’s a good thing whichever way you look at it”. The hashtag “Tesla recalled over 1.6 million cars” (#特斯拉召回超160万辆车#) has amassed 34 million views and 14,000 interactions on Weibo as of 8 January.
When asked about Tesla’s goals for 2024 in an October earnings call, Musk said he expected the company to grow “much faster than any other car company on Earth by far.” Musk may now be eating his words, as the final month of 2023 saw the Chinese automaker BYD surpass Tesla to become the world’s top-selling EV maker. Will BYD’s recent surge transform into staying power? We’ll be watching closely in 2024 to find out.