Elon Musk sees disgruntled Chinese customers smashing their own Teslas as a good sign

You buy it, you smash it.
You buy it, you smash it.
Image: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
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When e-commerce entrepreneur Yu Xinquan finally got his Tesla Model S in June after months of delays, he smashed the front windshield of the $170,000 car with a wrench before he even left the dealership. “It’s a protest against the company,” Yu told the Wall Street Journal. “Tesla’s arrogance made me angry.”

Elon Musk brought up Yu’s act of rage and vengeance yesterday, during his announcement of a major expansion of the electric-car company’s business in China, citing it as proof that a pent-up desire for Teslas is provoking strong emotions.

“We can drive demand up at will,” Musk said on a conference call (paywall) discussing the company’s quarterly results, explaining that the company was holding back on marketing so that it wouldn’t disappoint customers. “One guy in China got so upset that when he got his car he bashed it.”

Tesla has faced a host of challenges setting up business in China, which is now the world’s largest car market—from trademark lawsuits to huge import and luxury taxes to the logistics of building a nationwide network of charging stations. The Chinese government has been a big booster of electric cars, but most of that support has gone to home-grown manufacturers like BYD.

Musk previously called China a “wild card” in Tesla’s future, but its business there was prominently mentioned during the company’s latest earnings presentation. The company hasn’t released China sales figures separately but analysts estimate it has sold about 1,000 Model S vehicles on the mainland since shipments started in April.

Another loyal Chinese Tesla owner, Zong Yi, is also reaching for a wrench—not to bash his car, but to build, at his own expense, a series of 20 Tesla charging stations along the 5,750 km (3,572 mile) route between Beijing and Guangzhou. “I think I’m the best sales manager Tesla has,” said the businessman based in Guangdong.