Tesla under NHTSA Investigation after Model S and X Recall in China

Colin Beresford
·3 min read
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

From Car and Driver

  • In China, Tesla is recalling 29,193 Model S and Model X vehicles that were made in the United States, citing suspension issues that could lead to an accident.

  • The vehicles were built between September 17, 2013, and January 15, 2018, at Tesla's Fremont, California, factory.

  • In a letter sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in September, Tesla's regulatory counsel said the automaker "believes the root cause of the issue is driver abuse, including that driver usage and expectation for damageability is uniquely severe in the China market."

Update 11/27/20: NHTSA has opened a formal investigation into an estimated 114,761 Teslas in regard to the front suspension issue that’s been the cause of a recall in China. The US-made Model S sedans built between 2015 and 2017 and Model X SUVs built between 2016 and 2017. The investigation has been put into motion after receiving 43 complaints about failures of the front suspension. NHTSA’s investigation states: “The front suspension fore links may fail at the knuckle ball joint ring, which may result in contact between the tire and wheel liner.”

Tesla is recalling a total of 29,193 U.S.-made Model S and Model X vehicles that were exported to China, according to a statement from the China State Administration for Market Regulation. The vehicles, built between September 17, 2013, and January 15, 2018, have potentially faulty front and rear suspensions. After large impacts, the connecting rods may become damaged, leading to an accident if the suspension fails. The vehicles were all produced at Tesla's plant in Fremont, California.

To remedy the issue, Tesla reportedly will replace the rear connecting links in the front suspension and the upper connecting links in the rear suspension for the affected vehicles; there are two different defects, and not all of the vehicles have them both, the statement from SMAR says. The recall doesn't cover the China-made Model 3, which recently began production at Tesla's Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai.

This is the fourth recall for Tesla vehicles imported into China, according to CNBC. The earlier recalls addressed Takata airbags as well as steering issues. A representative of Tesla in China did not immediately respond to Car and Driver's request for comment.

"NHTSA is aware of the Tesla recall due to suspension problems in China," NHTSA told C/D. "At this time, the agency has not received significant complaints related to these issues in the United States. The agency is in contact with Tesla and monitoring the situation closely, and will not hesitate to take action to protect the public against unreasonable risks to safety."

Tesla, in a letter to NHTSA sent in early September, said that it disagreed with the decision made by SAMR and that it wasn't recalling the parts outside of China because it doesn't believe there is anything to recall. Tesla said in the letter that the issue is simply a result of driver failure, such as a "severe pothole strike."

It is unclear whether Model S and Model X vehicles built in Fremont at the same time that remained in the United States could be recalled as well. This appears to be an ongoing issue for the automaker. Consumer Reports said that owners have reported problems with the suspension in their Model S sedans, particularly in the 2017 model, and the publication has said suspension issues were the main reason it stopped recommending the Model S.

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