Tesla announced on Tuesday that it would start offering three year interest free financing in Beijing, also allowing customers in the Chinese capital to rent license plates for free for up to three years. However, those plans caused a stir on Chinese social media, according to The Global Times, where some people pointed out that China could investigate this offer as retaliation for the U.S. trade war with the country.
China has already clamped down on several American companies - fining Ford $23.6 million for antitrust violations and investigating FedEx for "wrongful deliveries". Of these coincidentally timed hiccups, Andrew Polk, co-founder of research firm Trivium China in Beijing said: "At this stage I think our baseline assumption should be that there are no coincidences."
Now the question is whether or not Tesla could be the next pawn in the ongoing trade war.
The company said on its Weibo account that its interest free service could save consumers $7,673 and that its free license plate rental could save consumers about $8,600. Customers buying a Tesla Model 3 long range would "only need to pay 120,000 yuan as a deposit, plus a rental fee of 11,700 yuan every month," the company's post said.
The move marks a big bet on the Chinese market despite the ongoing tension between the two countries. But some consumers have reportedly forwarded Tesla's announcement to the official Weibo account of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport (BMCT).
One user said: "It's a big discount, but are you sure your license plate rental service is not on the edge of the law? This is a violation of policy." Another commented: "[China] has been pushed to this point amid an escalation of the trade war, could the BMCT take notice of this issue and take measures?"
Finally, one 20-something Beijing resident focused on Tesla's volatile business model, simply stating: "There may be another huge discount in the near future, so I prefer to buy homegrown electric cars over US brands."