Hong Kong (CNN Business)Tesla is still trying to get back on China’s good side.
An executive at the electric carmaker told Chinese authorities this week that Tesla will store any data it collects in China within the country’s borders, Chinese state media reported Tuesday night.
The remarks from Grace Tao Lin, vice president for external affairs at Tesla China, follow recent reports in several media outlets that the country’s military had banned Tesla (TSLA) vehicles from its complexes over concerns that onboard cameras could be used for spying. The company has also faced criticism recently for a series of problems involving its cars. In February, Tesla was summoned by regulators to answer questions about the quality of its Shanghai-made vehicles.
Beijing has made preventing the abuse of customer data a key part of its broader crackdown on tech companies operating in China. The government’s campaign this week extended to Ant Group, the Alibaba-affiliated financial tech firm that promised to “strengthen the protection of personal information” following a Beijing-ordered overhaul of its operations.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been trying to reassure China that his company isn’t doing anything inappropriate. He said at an annual state conference last month that his cars would never be used for spying in the country.
Musk later lavished praised on the country in an interview with state broadcaster China Central Television, where he pledged that the country would become his company’s “biggest market” in the long run.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request from CNN Business for comment about Tao’s reported remarks. The Shanghai Securities Journal said that she was speaking Tuesday at a roundtable meeting between dozens of US companies and officials from the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s powerful economic planner.
Tao said Tesla’s data collection in China will strictly abide by the country’s laws and regulations, the paper reported.
The company had enjoyed a special relationship with authorities in the country over the past few years.
Even though he does not speak Chinese, Musk is one of the most popular American business leaders in China. He has some 1.7 million followers on Weibo, a prominent Chinese social media platform — more than Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook. And he considers the country, which is the world’s largest car market, critical to his electric vehicle ambitions.
In 2020, Telsa’s revenue from China soared 124% from a year earlier, largely thanks to sales of the Shanghai-made Model 3. Tesla sold more than 137,000 Model 3s in China last year. That made it the best selling electric vehicle in the market, according to the China Passenger Car Association.
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