Some local governments and institutions in China are evaluating the ownership of Tesla vehicles by their employees for security reasons. This is another setback for Tesla in China after Chinese Communist authorities banned military personnel and their families from driving Tesla cars into military facilities in March of this year.
Bloomberg News reported May 28 that the Chinese governments of Zhejiang and Guangxi have asked government agencies to check and report on the ownership of Tesla cars by their employees and have explicitly banned employees of key departments from driving into certain office areas. The report said the China Meteorological Administration told its employees not to buy Tesla cars and that if they already owned them, they needed to transfer them to others.
Tesla, the world’s largest electric car maker, built a factory in Shanghai in 2018, with the first cars rolling off the production line in 2019, and sold 147,000 vehicles in China as of the end of last year, accounting for about 30 percent of its total global sales. Over the past two years, Tesla vehicles have drawn the attention of Chinese Communist authorities for the potential security risks posed by the various data they automatically collect.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Chinese authorities have restricted the use of Tesla vehicles by military personnel and key state-owned enterprises because of concerns that the vehicles’ built-in cameras allegedly continuously record images and capture data and information about when and where the vehicles are used, as well as cell phone contact lists that are synchronized with the vehicles. China is also concerned that some of the data collected by Tesla vehicles could be sent back to the United States, posing a threat to China’s national security.
In response to possible security concerns about Tesla cars, Tesla CEO Musk said he would not use the data collected by Tesla cars for espionage. He said his company would be shut down if Tesla electric cars were used for espionage.
Reuters reported on May 21 that officials at at least two government agencies in Beijing and Shanghai received verbal instructions from their supervisors not to park Tesla cars in their office areas.
To allay China’s concerns about data collected by Tesla vehicles, Tesla said on May 25 that it would build a new facility in China to store local user data and promised to keep all user data collected from cars sold in China inside the country.
April sales of new energy vehicles in China were 25,845, down 27 percent from 35,478 units in March, according to the China Automobile Dealers Association’s Passenger Vehicle Market Information Joint Committee.