Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Kelli Burns, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kelly Werder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kilmberly Walker, Ph.D.


Electric vehicle, Crisis communication strategy, Cultural difference, Situational crisis communication theory


The aim of this thesis is to test how Tesla handles a protestor in Tesla’s booth in Shanghai. This thesis evaluated the effectiveness and acceptance of Tesla’s public relations and crisis communication through analyzing domestic Chinese official news articles and consumers’ attitude on China’s most used social media platform, Weibo. The electric vehicle industry is relatively a newer industry than traditional automobile manufacturing industries. Therefore, the immaturity of the industry could bring different types of crises, and traditional vehicle problems could also be the problems of electric vehicles, such as engine failure, brake failure, safety concerns and security threats, and so on. A proper crisis communication strategy is an essential and significant part for these electric vehicle companies. This study utilized situational crisis communication theory as the theoretical framework, as it could provide a structure for analyzing the crisis facing the company. This paper provides insights for the electric vehicle industry or even the other same kinds of automobile field. As the consequence of the application of theory, this study aims to figure out what are the strategies that Tesla used in its crisis communication, according to situational crisis communication theory (SCCT), and what are not included in the SCCT. This study explored how domestic news media portrayed this case and Netizens’ attitudes on social media towards this case. This study used a content analysis method through analyzing news reports and consumers’ attitudes on social media to examine Tesla’s crisis communication during the crisis period. If the crisis communication strategies were thoughtfully utilized, Tesla could recover from the crisis as soon as possible rather than facing a period time of decline. After examination of the SCCT in Tesla’s crisis communication, the results learned from this case could be regarded as precious experience for the new energy automobile car industry in China. And, also the relationships between Tesla and the public in China could be considered as one of optional communication strategies when other automobile manufacturers are facing any kind of crisis in the future.