The article, titled “Giga-Sweatshop Meets Corporate Overlords: an Exclusive Look Into How Tesla China Runs its Shanghai Gigafactory 3“, accused Tesla of using defective parts, operating manual (instead of automated) assembly line with poor working conditions, practising office bullying and managing Tesla like a ‘isolated branch’.
These are serious allegations. Tom Zhu, who leads Tesla’s Greater China business, responded by saying that the ‘fabrication of facts’ in the article went ‘beyond imagination’.
We are not here to judge whether the allegations are factual or not. But if you dig a big further, there is something interesting that you might want to pay attention to.
Repeated Tesla basher
It is not the first time that Pingwest made serious allegations against Tesla. In fact, this is the third instalment of a series – with the first two being published in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Unfortunately, they did not bother translating these two into English.
The term it used to express “exposé”- “揭蛊” – is an obscure word possibly of Hmong origin (and linked to some witchcraft practice). The only other company Pingwest used “揭蛊” on is Luckin Coffee.
If you search Pingwest’s Chinese archive of articles about Tesla, you will realise that especially this year, almost all articles written by Pingwest’s own team have been negative and with accusations.
Why such hatred? Maybe the Pingwest founders sold their Tesla shares too early and missed the rally?
Enter a Tesla competitor
If you dig about the share ownership of Pingwest, you will find something interesting:
The operating entity of Pingwest, Beijing Pinxi interactive technologies Co. Ltd, has a shareholder called Guangzhou UCweb Computer Technology Co. Ltd. (Yes, the company that operates the famous UCweb browser). The latter owns about 6.7% of the former.
The biggest shareholder of Guangzhou UCweb Computer Technology Co. Ltd. is an individual called He Xiaopeng, who owns 24.67% of the company.
He is not only the president of UCweb, but also the founder of XPeng, or Xiaopeng Motors (NYSE: XPEV), a competitor of Tesla in China.
Therefore, you should not be too surprised when Pingwest published an article earlier this year titled “XPeng P7 challenges Tesla“.
The subtitle went “With a strong product, there is nothing to fear about.”