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Tesla denies that a malfunction was to blame after a deadly crash caught on video goes viral in China

November 14, 2022, 11:40 AM UTC
Visitors examine a Tesla model Y at the auto exhibition area of the 5th China International Import Expo in Shanghai, China, November 7, 2022.
CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Tesla Inc. said it will assist a police investigation into a fatal crash involving a Model Y sports utility in China earlier this month, while suggesting the incident wasn’t caused by a malfunction.  

Data taken from the car showed no proof the brake pedal had been applied before the crash, and video showed the brake lights remained off, the electric car maker said in a statement. Instead, the accelerator was heavily engaged in the lead up to the accident, which killed a motorcyclist and high-school student on a bicycle. Tesla said it will “actively provide any necessary aid” to the local police probe, which may involve a third-party investigator.

The Nov. 5 accident in Chaozhou in Guangdong province also injured three people, including the driver. Video circulated on Chinese social media showed a white Model Y speeding until finally crashing. 

The public security bureau in Raoping County didn’t respond to phone calls from Bloomberg News seeking comment.

A verified user on the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo, posting under the title of “a family member of the driver,” claimed the driver lost control for the the last 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) and though he had tried to apply the brakes, a technical problem must have caused the accident. 

While hundreds of people are estimated to die on China’s roads each day, crashes involving Teslas attract intense public interest, with footage quickly going viral on social media.

In a protest that garnered international attention, a Model 3 owner climbed atop a display vehicle at last year’s Shanghai auto show and yelled that she almost died because her Tesla’s brakes failed. The US carmaker, which initially enjoyed a red carpet welcome in China, finally made a public apology after facing criticism from local authorities and state-run media, without acknowledging any defect to the car.

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