Skip to content
Businessweek
Business

Tesla Takes Customers to Court to Silence Its Critics in China

The carmaker is resorting to lawsuits to contain months of bad press.

Zhang Yazhou protesting at the Shanghai Auto Show in April.

Zhang Yazhou protesting at the Shanghai Auto Show in April.

Photographer: Mark Andrews/Alamy

Consumer brands have long used everything from catchy advertising to product placement to burnish their image. But faced with a series of public-relations and branding crises in China, Tesla Inc. is resorting to an unconventional strategy: suing its critics.

In the past six months, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle giant has filed defamation claims against at least two Chinese citizens who raised concerns about the safety and quality of its vehicles. Tesla alleges the individuals groundlessly damaged its reputation and is asking for steep compensation. Meanwhile, the company’s in-house lawyers have taken to threatening social media personalities who publish similar views with legal action, demanding they retract the posts and apologize publicly.