Tesla is coming under increasing pressure in China with two government entities firing off missives about the company's behavior and treatment of its customers in a single day.
The trouble started early on Tuesday when China's state-run Xinhua news agency released an article that said the quality of Tesla's EVs must meet market expectations in order to win consumers' trust.
The California-based company should address consumer hesitation over purchasing its cars after issues ranging from malfunctioning brakes to blazes during the vehicles' charging emerged, the article said.
A few hours later, the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee weighed in, posting a commentary on its WeChat account that said the automaker should respect Chinese consumers and comply with local laws and regulations.
Making an effort to find the cause of problems and improve features is something any responsible business should do, and Tesla has not done that, the Communist Party body that oversees China's police, prosecutors and courts said.
The blowback would appear to stem from an embarrassing incident Tesla faced on Monday at the Shanghai auto show, one of the world's premier car events.
An angry protester climbed on top of one of its display vehicles shouting that her car's brakes had lost control. She was live streaming earlier from near Tesla's booth before staging her protest, which was captured by scores of onlookers who then uploaded the footage to the Internet, helping it to go viral on social media. Tesla's booth at the show on Tuesday had a noticeably increased security presence.
The woman, a Tesla owner from Henan, "is widely known for having repeatedly protested against Tesla's brake issue," the company said on Monday, adding that it will work on solutions but "never compromise against unreasonable demands." She will be detained for five days, local police said.
Videos that went viral on Monday showed the woman, identified only by the name Zhang, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "The brakes don't work" and shouting similar accusations while staff and security struggled to restore calm.
Late on Tuesday, Tesla issued a statement apologizing for not addressing the customer's complaint in a timely manner and said it would conduct a self-inspection of its service and operations in China.
Tesla sells roughly 30 percent of its cars in China, made at its Shanghai factory. But it has faced occasional criticism over issues such as complaints of battery fires.
The unwanted publicity comes at an uncomfortable time for Tesla, which since it broke ground on its Gigafactory in Shanghai in early 2019 has enjoyed a dream run in China, receiving all-important support from the government and appearing to skirt the tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The world's biggest maker of EVs has extracted perks other international companies have struggled to obtain in China, the No. 1 global EV market, including tax breaks, cheap loans and permission to wholly own its domestic operations.
But over the past month, Tesla has had to defend the way it handles data in China and had its cars banned from military complexes because of concerns about sensitive information being collected by cameras built into the vehicles. After that order, CEO Elon Musk strenuously denied the company would ever use a car's technology for spying and Tesla's Beijing unit said cameras that are built into its EVs are not activated outside of North America.
Tesla has been called out by Chinese regulators over quality and safety issues before, including battery fires and abnormal acceleration. In early February, it was forced into issuing a public apology to China's state grid after a video purportedly showed staff blaming an overload in the national electricity network for damage to a customer's vehicle.