Tesla has issued a recall of 2018-2020 Model 3 vehicles and 2019-2021 Model Y vehicles to fix possible issues with the seat belts. The recall affects a total of 7,696 vehicles. Tesla has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it is not aware of any injuries resulting from the defective seat belts.
In 5,530 of the Model 3 and Model Y vehicles being recalled, fasteners that secure the front seat shoulder belt to the B-pillar may not be secured properly. In 2,166 of the Model Y vehicles being recalled, fasteners that secure the left and right second-row seat belt retractors may not be properly secured.
Tesla suggests taking these vehicles in to have the affected components of the seat belts inspected and repaired if necessary. In communications announcing the recall, Tesla also said that in “the unlikely event that damage to the b-pillar hole threads and/or top loop is found during the inspection, Tesla Service will repair the hole threads and/or replace the top loop.”
The company has also recently issued a recall of some Model 3 and Model Y vehicles to fix an issue with some of the bolts securing the braking system into place. The braking system could come loose and interfere with the proper operation of the steering wheel (or optional steering yoke). Tesla has reportedly taken steps to ensure that the bolts are properly secured when the vehicle is first manufactured.
While recalls in the automotive industry due to manufacturing defects are almost routine, Tesla has faced increased scrutiny from both regulators and consumers due to reported safety issues. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Highway Transit Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently looked into a fatal crash in Texas in which authorities initially said that the Autopilot software was active, although inspection of Tesla’s logs of Autopilot use later indicated that it actually wasn’t.
Some of these issues may have been caused by owners being too confident in the abilities of the onboard software and pulling highly dangerous attention-seeking stunts. Recent instances of Tesla owners riding in the back seat of a driverless vehicle with Autopilot activated were likely a major factor in the company’s decision to activate a camera mounted to the rearview mirror to track driver alertness. Tesla did recently admit to Californian regulators that Elon Musk overstates the capacity of Full Self-Driving even though it officially publishes a disclaimer that drivers should stay alert while the software is active on its website.
Tesla has also faced lawsuits related to reported safety issues such as one filed in November 2020 alleging that Tesla ignored and attempted to cover up suspension issues in some Tesla vehicles. The company had previously recalled some vehicles sold in China to fix a similar suspension issue.
These and similar issues had led to Consumer Reports’ downgrading of some Tesla vehicle models in its most recent Auto Reliability Survey. The hits to the company’s reputation, plus increased competition from long-standing automakers like Volkswagen, Kia, and Audi, could push Tesla into paying greater attention to fixing safety issues rather than trying to hide or dismiss them, which may explain its increasing number of recalls.