Two test drivers are reported to have been killed after the Nio electric car they were testing in Shanghai plummeted out of a third-storey office window.
One member of staff and a person from a partner company were inside the vehicle when it fell on Wednesday about 5.20pm local time, the electric car manufacturer said in a quickly-deleted Weibo post.
Rescue workers were filmed trying to get the passengers out of the wrecked vehicle as it lay on its side covered in broken glass and debris from where it smashed out of a building.
The car involved appeared to be a model ET5, which features self-driving technology, according to South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Various media reports described the floor from which the car fell as a test-drive area, a car park, or a showroom.
Nio said they had immediately launched an investigation into the deaths in cooperation with government officials.
Terrible story of two test drivers at #China’s electrical vehicle manufacturer NIO being killed when a car somehow smashed out of a building and came crashing down from a great height. pic.twitter.com/4ZNI2t7LqZ
— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) June 23, 2022
In a second Weibo post, the company stressed the incident was an “accident” that was not caused by issues with the vehicle.
Nio said: “Our company has collaborated with public security department to launch the investigation and analysis of the cause of the accident. Based on the analysis of the situation at the scene, we can initially confirm that this was an accident (not caused by the vehicle).
“We feel very sad about this accident and would like to express our deepest condolences to our colleague and partner employee who lost their lives. A team has been set up to help the families.”
Social media users criticised the statement blasting it as an attempt by the company to distance itself from the deaths.
One Weibo user said the statement “shows the cold blood of capitalism”.
Another replied: “The last sentence is so indifferent. They [test drivers] came to test the vehicle, but you say [the accident] has nothing to do with the vehicle?”
Zhongcao Daren Zhuge, a Weibo influencer with 5.1 million followers, said that Nio was responsible for ensuring that the environment was safe for the test drive.
“Why was the car not tested in a designated area? Why were there no guardrails and protection facilities? Did employees receive safety training?”, he wrote.
Founded in 2014, Nio is focused on designing premium autonomous cars and is often seen as the main business rival to Tesla.