(Beijing) Tesla must recall 1.6 million vehicles in China for a software update presenting “security risks”, a hard blow for the American manufacturer overtaken by the Chinese BYD in electric sales .

This recall aims to correct software defects for assisted driving as well as vehicle door locking, the Chinese market regulator said on Friday.

The measure concerns two batches of cars produced between 2014 and 2023 and includes a total of 1.6 million Model S, Model distance.

This failure “increases the risk of collision with the vehicle and poses a safety problem”, estimates the Chinese regulatory authority.

In December, Tesla had already recalled two million vehicles in the United States for a risk linked to their assisted driving system.

China is the largest market for the brand, which has a factory in Shanghai, the largest outside the United States. Tesla will produce more than 900,000 vehicles there in 2023, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Tesla boss Elon Musk visited China at the end of May for the first time in more than three years due to health restrictions against COVID-19 which limited travel.

There he met the now former Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Qin Gang, whose last public appearance dates back to August.

Tesla faces fierce competition in China, the world’s largest automobile market, where a multitude of innovative local brands compete in the electric sector. Tesla’s most serious competitor in this niche is BYD (pronounced “bi-ouaille-di”).

The Chinese electric car champion snatched the title of world’s largest seller of vehicles of this type from Tesla in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Tesla, however, remains the biggest seller for the whole year.

BYD (acronym for “Build Your Dreams”) became last year the first manufacturer in the world to cross the symbolic milestone of 5 million so-called clean vehicles produced (combined hybrid and electric).

In November, the manufacturer was still in pole position for electric vehicles in its country (more than 300,000 cars sold), far ahead of Tesla (more than 80,000), according to the Chinese Federation of Individual Car Manufacturers.

Specific figures for the Chinese market in December and for the full year 2023 are due to be released in the coming days.