Editorial:Car safety and supervision are no trivial matters

【明報專訊】A Tesla owner has made a high-profile protest against Tesla at the Shanghai Auto Show. Car safety issues should have been addressed in accordance with rigorously written laws, but the competent government departments and car company have failed to observe the laws strictly, resulting in a huge farce between China and the West while issues such as safety and after-sales service have not undergone due rational discussion. How similar incidents can be addressed in the future needs everyone's reflection.

In 2018 Tesla CEO Elon Musk visited China and finally decided to build a Gigafactory in Shanghai. Construction started in January 2019, and in the same year the factory began to churn out cars. The company had been caught up in the trade war between the US and China, with then US President Donald Trump demanding US companies move production back home to increase the rate of employment. However, Musk did the opposite and became an anti-Trump hero. As the pandemic raged across the world, he expanded the manufacturing plant and production line in Shanghai to export Chinese-made electric cars to Europe, contributing to the value of output, job opportunities, and foreign trade in China.

Despite a series of car safety issues that occurred in the US, Tesla still enjoyed great popularity among Chinese car maniacs. But recently, complaints about the safety of Tesla's electric cars have surfaced in China. At the Shanghai Auto Show last week, a woman wearing a T-shirt carrying the words ''brake failure'' climbed onto the roof of a Tesla car and shouted. Tesla became ''the despicable one'' overnight.

Ironically, it was after the car owner went to such extremes to protest against Tesla that the company responded passively to the complaints. However, when interviewed by the media, the company's senior management accused the protester of being deluded by a competitor into ''making such an unwise move''. The state media condemned the accusation immediately. The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) demanded Tesla submit the event data record concerning the 30 minutes prior to the accident to the car owner. Tesla submitted the report immediately and stated that it ''firmly follows the decisions of all the relevant government departments, respects customers, and complies with the related laws and regulations.''

Netizens were ecstatic on all social media platforms as soon as they learned that Tesla had admitted its mistakes. The car owner and all ''bystanders'' have all commented that Tesla had it coming.

Auto manufacturers always pay attention to car safety issues, because once the safety of cars is proven to be unreliable, the manufacturer is very likely doomed. Meanwhile, if the car safety of an auto brand is thrown into serious doubt, insurance companies will refuse to insure its cars, and government departments will have an unshakeable supervisory responsibility.

How an automaker should provide after-sales services, handle car owners' complaints and execute public relations campaigns to address media queries is the automaker's business decision to make. If these are not handled well, a company will be committing a slow suicide. It is a political responsibility that the government departments should actively supervise the market. If the government does not do a good job of this, it will let down the people. Now, both Tesla and the SAMR have failed to do their bit. If this dispute leaves a foreign company and government departments with no choice but to succumb to populism, enterprises, the government and society as a whole will have to pay an unnecessary price.

明報社評 2021.04.26:莫把汽車安全當兒戲 不將汽車監管當鬧劇








■/ Glossary /生字 /

competent /ˈkɒmpɪtənt/:having the power to decide sth

churn out:to churn out sth means to produce large quantities of it very quickly

ecstatic /ɪkˈstætɪk/:very happy, excited and enthusiastic; feeling or showing great enthusiasm


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