Tesla looks to expand PR team to counter bad publicity in China

Company led by Elon Musk is also growing its legal team to deal with regulatory scrutiny

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk. Photograph: AFP via Getty

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk. Photograph: AFP via Getty

 

Tesla is looking to expand its public relations and legal teams in China after a run of bad publicity and tighter regulatory scrutiny.

The electric-vehicle pioneer is seeking to fill external affairs positions, whose responsibilities include government relations, in several cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing, according to a post on its official WeChat site.

The company is also hiring more public relations managers in Shanghai, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Xi’an and Shenyang.

After initially enjoying a red-carpet welcome in China, including being the only foreign automaker allowed to wholly-own its local operation, Tesla has endured a series of setbacks this year. A protest by a disgruntled owner at the Shanghai auto show in April went viral on social media, and was followed by a spate of crashes and regulatory scrutiny of safety and customer service issues.

Data released last week showed Tesla’s shipments of China-made cars to the local market plunged 69 per cent in July from June to just 8,621 vehicles. China is Tesla’s second biggest market outside the US, and key to its growth plans.

The expanding government and media relations presence in China contrasts with Tesla’s approach in the US, where chief executive Elon Musk’s prolific tweeting is the main avenue for communications, with the local PR team largely disbanded.

The Palo Alto, California-based company is also beefing up its legal team in China where it faces a tougher regulatory environment, and is advertising for a data-privacy protection lawyer, an anti-trust lawyer, an engineering lawyer and an after-sales lawyer.

Earlier this year five regulators summoned Tesla representatives over quality and safety issues.

Its cars have also been banned from some military complexes over concern their cameras may be collecting sensitive information.

The government last week said intelligent-vehicle makers will be required to store locally-generated data within the country, the latest step in a broader regulatory crackdown on business. – Bloomberg