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Tesla in talks with Chinese government over safety concerns

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Chinese regulators have met representatives from EV manufacturer Tesla over consumer reports of safety issues, according to a Reuters report.

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced in a social media post that some of its officials and representatives from the Ministry of Industry and IT, Ministry of Emergency Management, Cyberspace Administration and Ministry of Transportation had recently met with Tesla.

The meeting was held to discuss consumer reports of safety issues, including battery fires, abnormal acceleration and problems with over-the-air software updates. According to Reuters, the regulator urged Tesla to operate with respect for Chinese laws and consumer rights. Tesla agreed to investigate the problems raised, strengthen its internal management and intensify inspections.

A Tesla spokesperson said: “We will strictly abide by Chinese laws and regulations and always respect consumer rights,” adding that Tesla had accepted the guidance from the regulators.

In May 2020, the Ministry of Industry called on Tesla to ensure that vehicles made in the country are consistent with those made abroad, after some customers complained about use of less sophisticated chips in their cars.

Tesla’s Shanghai “Gigafactory” is manufacturing Model 3 sedans and Model Y SUVs. Deliveries began last month and the company aims to ramp production up to 250,000 cars every year. China is Tesla’s largest market outside the US.

The Chinese government has been strongly promoting EVs as it pursues an ambitious decarbonisation strategy; along with Tesla, domestic EV start-ups like NIO and XPeng have models in production in China. According to the State Council of China, sales of EVs, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles in the country are expected to rise from five per cent to 20 per cent of all new car sales by 2025.

In January this year, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Tesla to recall almost 160,000 vehicles due to concerns regarding the media control units installed in Model S sedans and Model X SUVs. Tesla has reportedly received over 10,000 requests to replace media control units.

These units, which are used to input many essential vehicle functions, use 8GB flash memory chips in Nvidia processors. Whenever a driver turns on the vehicle, the total capacity of the chip is slightly eroded; the regulator has estimated that capacity is reached in approximately five to six years. This is considered an insufficient life expectancy for an “integral” component.

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