Last year, a Chinese court found Tesla guilty of sales fraud after a Model S sold as accident-free was found to have major structural damage. Now, after losing an appeal on the case, the company is suing to have evidence of the case stricken from social media.
While this isn’t the first time Tesla has threatened to sue over social media posts, this particular case is a unique one. Not only has this suit actually been filed, but it’s a direct response to posts about the previous sales fraud case. Tesla is demanding damages from Han Chao, who filed the fraud case.
First, some backstory on the original case. In June of 2019, Chao purchased a certified Model S P85D directly from Tesla for 379,700 RMB ($58,788 at current exchange rates). The car was advertised as being accident-free, but a series of issues led Chao to have it checked out by a third-party shop. There, mechanics found evidence of serious structural issues, including full replacement of the C pillar.
After being refused a refund, Chao sued Tesla for sales fraud. During the suit, Tesla provided documentation showing the Model S had been in a collision just months before Chao made his purchase. A court in China found Tesla guilty, and ordered the company to refund the car plus triple its value in damages. Tesla appealed the ruling, but the courts held firm — Tesla was in the wrong.
Now, the company is trying a different tactic — suing Chao directly for defamation. Posts on Chao’s Weibo account detail a suit in excess of five million yuan, nearly $775,000, and demands for any previous posts about the sales fraud suit to be taken down from the social media platform.
Despite the threat of litigation, Chao hasn’t stopped discussing Tesla on his Weibo page. Per South China Morning Post:
Han publicly ridiculed the complaint. “Do you mean to say, even though you need to pay me more than 1 million yuan in compensation, even though I am the victim, I cannot say a bad word about you and need to pay 5 million as a price?” he wrote on Weibo.