Tesla won the case against a woman claiming that the brakes on her Tesla vehicle malfunctioned and caused a severe incident. She protested against the US automaker in April 2021 at the Shanghai Auto Show, wearing a t-shirt saying ‘brake failure’ in Chinese.
Tesla denied the accusations and sued the woman, who is being referred to as Ms. Li from Xi’an. Today, the court ordered the protestor to apologize publicly, pay damages to Tesla, and cover vehicle evaluation fees.
Ms. Li was a Tesla Model 3 owner (VIN: LRW3E7EA9LC013130) involved in a car accident in March 2021, after which she claimed it was caused by the brakes not working correctly.
During the hearing, the court appointed an independent agency to evaluate Ms. Li’s Model 3 brakes, concluding that the brakes were in normal condition. Ms. Li was ordered to delete comments damaging Tesla’s reputation on her social network, pay 2000 yuan (280 USD) to Tesla for damages, cover the 25,390 yuan legal processing fee, and 20,000 yuan (2,800 USD) for vehicle evaluation.
Ms. Li wasn’t the only one protesting at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show. Another Tesla owner, Ms. Zheng, from Henan province, even escalated the protest by standing on the roof of a Tesla Model 3, with security trying to cover her ‘Tesla brake failure’ t-shirt with umbrellas.
Ms. Zheng claimed her Model 3 almost killed her family when brake failure caused the accident. Tesla replied that according to the in-vehicle monitoring system, the brakes were working correctly, which Ms. Zheng disagreed with.
At that time, Tesla was living a marketing nightmare in China as public opinion turned against it, and many media referred to the events as brake failure incidents even though no brake failure was ever proven. Some Tesla owners were even denied parking in public spaces as local securities refused them, saying to ‘fix your brakes first.’
Tesla took a firm stand and started to solve the situation by suing the Tesla owners and influencers who accused it of brake failure. And it was a successful strategy. Some influencers confessed that they made up the brake failure story to get more engagement. In other cases, the investigation proved that the driver mistakenly hit the acceleration pedal instead of the brake pedal.
In 2023, the brake failure causa was almost forgotten in China, with no new cases reported or discussions about Tesla’s alleged poor safety. The Chinese market is difficult for overseas companies (looking at you, Uber), but Tesla managed to navigate that situation pretty well. However, new challenges are coming for the US automaker as local EV builders are gearing up to launch a new batch of competition for the Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV in 2024.