By Elaine Dunn
Luxury electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors’ entry into China has not been exactly smooth. And it is not for lack of orders. In fact, quite the contrary!
April deliveries were delayed, sparking protests and much negative online chatter. As part of the protest, a disgruntled new owner took delivery of his April-promised car on June 27 and smashed its front windshield within minutes to show his anger and displeasure at Tesla!
The reason for the delivery delay to areas outside of Beijing and Shanghai, as presented by Veronica Wu, general manager of Tesla China, was, “the lack of after-sales service centers and charging stations. Tesla needs to ensure that every single customer has a charging station within reach to deliver the perfect driving experience.”
Tesla had strong orders, but inadequate infrastructure. Build-out of charging stations was slow and the need to have a charging outlet at the non Beijing-Shanghai car owner’s residence is problematic. Apparently, the new GM, Wu, had not thought through her 4P’s of marketing (price, product, promotion and place)!So what’s feeding the current online chatter? The URL for Tesla’s Chinese website – tuosule.cn.
Tesla does not have an official Chinese name either for its brand or for the site, i.e., it does not have equivalent Chinese characters for it, so Web users have been having a field day giving it one!
One of the positive ones is 拓速乐 (Te Su Le), meaning “happiness in boosting speed,” which happens to be the official Chinese name of Tesla China’s sales unit. The blogger promptly added,"Don't forget to pay me if it is adopted eventually."
Another character combination that has popped up: 脱俗了, commonly translated as “refined,” but literally means “shedding vulgarity” or “leaving vulgarity behind” — insinuating new money or commoners putting on airs.
Other less flattering character combinations have more negative connotations, specifically through Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. One suggested characters which are pronounced diaosi, which roughly means “loser” in Chinese. “The name is improper. It makes a premium car with prices starting from 500,000 yuan sound like a luggage rack worth a few thousand yuan,” wrote another.
Tesla doesn’t have an official Chinese-character name for its brand because “Tesla” had already been registered by a Chinese businessman from Guangzhou in 2006 as “Te Si La.” That transliteration, 特斯拉, doesn’t have any obvious meaning or connotation, but the businessman wants $32 million to relinquish the name and Tesla offered $326,000. The same businessman also registered the domain names tesla.cn, tesla.com.cn and teslamotors.com.cn.
With or without a Chinese name, Tesla is selling cars in China.