In a recent note about Tesla’s future in China, Morgan Stanley (MS) acknowledged the company’s tendency to attract exaggerated media coverage. The investment bank shared some insights from its China Autos and Auto-related team in a note about American EV company.
Morgan Stanley’s China team pointed out that local consumers still support Tesla despite mixed perceptions about the quality of the company’s vehicles. “The [China] team acknowledges the potential for Tesla quality issues to be exaggerated in the media. For example, if the driver of a car hits a policeman, the headline becomes ‘Tesla hits a policeman’ rather than the driver itself,” the MS note stated.
The most well-known exaggerated media coverage Tesla China has been embroiled in would be the “brake failure” controversy in April when a disgruntled Model 3 owner held a bold protest at the Shanghai Auto Show. The Model 3 owner claimed her car’s brakes failed, resulting in extensive negative media coverage by both local and international news outlets.
The Model 3 owner’s brake failure claim was eventually revealed as false based on internal data from the vehicle in question. Tesla China’s legal team later cracked down on social media users spreading the false narrative. Eventually, a number of Chinese news outlets apologized for spreading false information about the company, and several social media users issued a formal apology over their “brake failure” posts.
Morgan Stanley’s China team spoke with a local regulator from Shanghai about Tesla and consumers’ perception of the company. “The impression is they are still open to Tesla and still want Tesla to participate in China. The Shanghai regulator says that Tesla has brought a lot of benefits to the country,” MS’ team noted.
However, some unofficial anti-Tesla policies appear to be practiced by Chinese government offices. Last month, news broke that some Chinese government offices reportedly banned Tesla vehicles from parking in their compound, citing national security risks. In March, Tesla cars were reportedly banned from entering some military complexes in China.
The Morgan Stanley China team cited incidents when the Chinese government prohibited government employees from buying Tesla vehicles, noting that the practice has become somewhat of a national government policy. Despite this, consumer perception of Tesla in the country remains positive. “Despite the government restrictions, our team believes Chinese individuals still like Tesla and say the brand is still strong,” the MS China team wrote.
Morgan Stanley advised investors to expect China to get stricter about autonomous data collection, particularly as local regulators in Beijing prefer vehicle data to stay within China. Tesla, for its part, seems open to the idea, with Reuters reporting that Tesla plans to open a data center in China and is developing a data platform for Tesla owners.