Tesla, order to recall 30,000 cars in China, ‘driver misuse’

In 2015 a Tesla Model S cruises on Highway 33 above Ojai. Regulators in China have recalled 30,000 US-built Model S and Model X vehicles to repair the suspension. (Myung J Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Tesla Model S and Model X owners have complained about potentially dangerous flaws with suspension systems since at least 2015. On Friday, the Chinese government took action – and the company responded by blaming the country’s drivers.

The China State Administration for Market Regulation ordered a recall for Tesla’s nearly 30,000 Model S and Model X vehicles manufactured in Fremont, California, the plant and exported to China. The affected cars were manufactured from 2013 to 2017.

Model S and Model X vehicles sold in the US and Europe were built at the same factory using the same suspension system. Over 250,000 sold worldwide.

The traffic safety regulator for the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said Friday afternoon, “It is aware of the recall of Tesla due to suspension problems in China. At this time, the agency has no significant complaints related to these issues Millie. ” United States. The agency is in contact with Tesla and closely monitoring the situation, and will not hesitate to take action to protect the public against undue risks to safety. “A spokeswoman declined to say what made the complaint significant.

Tesla has dissolved its media relations department and stopped responding to media inquiries in 2019. Tesla’s Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and the media relations department did not receive immediate response.

But in a letter sent by the Tesla attorney to NHTSA on 4 September, the company blamed Chinese drivers for the problem, said there was no safety issue, and said it did not plan to issue a recall outside of China.

China said remind me of a little detail. The recall does not include the Tesla Model 3, including the China-made version of Tesla that began assembling at its new Shanghai factory late last year.

Tesla owners at the Tesla Motors Club Forum have had complaints about suspension issues since at least 2015, complaints that still continue today. Many report that a ball joint attached to a control arm comes loose.

The company has issued a bulletin directing Tesla employees to replace suspension parts on vehicles with relevant mechanical problems or to combine wheels. The bulletin calls the problem a “known non-security-related condition”.

In a letter to the NHTSA, Tesla’s attorney Elizabeth H.W. Mykiatuk wrote that “the root cause of the issue is driver abuse … which is particularly severe in the Chinese market.” Although the letter referred to a “curb on impact” and a “serious pit strike”, it did not provide any details to support the claim that drivers in China misuse their cars.

The letter stated that “Tesla is not aware of any accidents, injuries or deaths related to the suspension”. But it noted that affected owners would “get new components” with “improved performance in misused scenarios”.

Given the way in which accident statistics are collected in the US, it is difficult to determine whether the suspension resulted in deaths or injuries, and if so, how many. The NHTSA has not released such figures. Insurance companies collect such data but keep them confidential.

In the past, Tesla has attempted to keep a lid on suspension problems. In 2016, the auto industry news site Daily Kanbon reported that Tesla was repairing the suspension outside the owner’s warranty coverage. The article, quoting Tesla’s “goodwill” repair contract, states that Tesla’s owners keep the agreement confidential and agree not to sue the company based on suspension issues.

After the need for nondisclosure caused a stir in the media, Tesla dropped it.

In the US, vehicle manufacturers are required to issue voluntary recall for safety-related defects. In a 2014 tweet, after being removed, Musk announced that the “word ‘needed to be recalled.”

In a letter to the NHTSA, the company said a recall was not necessary even after China’s security agency, as Mykiatuk called it “offside”. Tesla “decided to do a voluntary recall rather than withdraw the recall order”, he wrote.

NHTSA is investigating potential faults in Model S and X vehicles that are manufactured in approximately the same period, following allegations that the company had installed cooling tubes that were likely to leak, posing a potential fire hazard Gone.

The NHTSA website shows 351 complaints about the Model S suspension system, far more than competing automakers. For example, for the 2016 model year, there were 116 Model S suspension complaints compared to three suspension complaints for the BMW 200, 300, 400, 500, 600 and 700 Series vehicles, and Audi models A3, A4, A5 , There was none for the A6. , A7 and A8.

Many of the complaints include phrases such as “the control arm was snapped” and “the control arm on the left broke at 70 mph on the highway”. One says that “the ball joint cracks like glass during normal driving. As an engineer it scares daylight for me.”

As part of its Friday statement, NHTSA invited vehicle owners to contact the agency “if you believe your vehicle may have a safety defect that is not part of a current recall.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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