Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has responded to the Chinese government’s concerns that the company is using the cameras and sensors on its vehicles to spy on their military. He said they would never spy for the U.S. government and that no company ever would.
Tesla CEO: we would never spy on China
Beijing reportedly banned some government employees from driving Tesla cars to work because of concerns about national security. Officials worried that the vehicles' cameras and sensors could be used to collect information about their nation's military and other sensitive data.
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Musk told listeners at the China Development Forum, an annual conference organized by the State Council, that "if Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down." He spoke on a video call over the weekend, comparing the issue to similar allegations levied against TikTok by the U.S. government last year.
ByteDance's video-sharing app faced a possible ban in the U.S. when the Trump administration accused it of spying on U.S. citizens for the Chinese government.
"The United States wanted to shut down TikTok," Musk noted, "Luckily, it did not happen. Many people were concerned about TikTok, but I think this kind of concern is unnecessary, and we should learn lessons from it."
Tesla faces a challenge in what could become its biggest market
China is a high-stakes market for Tesla, especially since the company built its factory near Shanghai. Musk called the plant a "template for future growth." CNN noted that Tesla kept total control over the project, which was unusual at the time the factory was built. The automaker has also received strong support from the government in recent years, although scrutiny of it has been increasing.
Last month, Chinese officials called Tesla to answer questions about the quality of the cars it makes in Shanghai. The South China Morning Post reported over the weekend that the military's ban of Tesla vehicles was issued a "couple of weeks ago" because Chinese officials were "very concerned" about them. The newspaper added that Musk could visit China next month, citing an unnamed source.
China plays an essential role in Tesla's global strategy, with analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities repeatedly calling the nation the "linchpin" that justifies a premium on the automaker's stock price. Cathie Wood of ARK Invest has a new $3,000 price target on Tesla stock, as she expects it to reach that level by 2025.
Tesla is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders' families.