According to Reuters, Elon Musk said on Saturday that if Tesla vehicles were used to spy in China, the company would be shut down. Musk remarked while speaking to the China Development Forum via video link, in response to reports that China has prohibited its military and government personnel from driving Tesla vehicles due to security concerns.
“There’s a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information,” Musk told the forum. “If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down.”
People who work for China’s military, government departments, and “state-owned enterprises in sensitive industries” are prohibited from driving Teslas, Wall Street Journal reported. According to the Journal, China is worried that Tesla’s exterior cameras, which continuously capture video, may be used to collect photos to be sent back to the US. According to Reuters, China is a major market for Tesla and electric vehicles; the carmaker sold 147,445 vehicles there last year, accounting for 30% of its global total.
According to Bloomberg, Tesla and its CEO have spoken to Chinese authorities in a different tone than they have with their American counterparts. For example, last month, Tesla apologized after one of its employees blamed China’s electrical grid for causing damage to a customer’s vehicle. In a video, Tesla said, “We are profoundly sorry for the misunderstanding and would like to apologize to the Nanchang Power Grid for the inconvenience caused.”
Musk and Tesla have been more hostile in their responses to US authorities; the CEO once hung up on the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, and last year he clashed with authorities in Alameda County, California, over coronavirus limits, where Tesla’s Fremont plant is located.