Two killed after Chinese electric car falls from third floor of company’s offices

A leading Chinese electric car company has said two people were killed when one of its vehicles fell from the third floor of its Shanghai headquarters.

Nio, a homegrown brand sometimes seen as a potential rival to Tesla, said the incident happened at about 5.20pm on Wednesday. One of the victims was its employee and the other from a partner company. They were both inside the vehicle when it fell.

“After the incident we immediately began to work with the public security department to find the cause of the accident,” the company said in an initial statement, stressing that it was an accident and “not caused by the vehicle itself”.

Videos circulated on social media showed medical workers attempting to rescue the two people in the car. Nio said it felt “very sad” about the tragedy and the company had set up a team to help the victims’ families.

But the tone of the company’s initial statement drew criticism on Weibo, where commenters accused Nio of trying to avoid responsibility. “To be honest, the last line of your statement (which said it was not caused by the vehicle) highlighted the cold-bloodedness of capital,” one user from Sichuan remarked.

Nio has since issued a revised statement, putting the line “not caused by the vehicle” in brackets in an apparent effort to de-emphasise it. The company’s communications director has said he would take the responsibility for causing such controversy.

Nio is one of a number of emerging domestic electric vehicle brands in China. It is sometimes called China’s “Tesla killer” – a nickname that shows its ambition to rival the US firm.

It is not the first time the Chinese brand has faced questions over its product. Last year a Chinese businessman died in a Nio ES8 model after switching to the car’s semi-autonomous Navigate on Pilot driving feature.