Owners of Tesla’s Model X and Model Y have filed a new proposed class action lawsuit that alleges that the company has been ignoring and trying to cover up safety issues with the vehicle models’ suspension. The 101-page lawsuit was filed in a California federal court.
“Tesla is gambling with the lives and safety of hundreds of thousands of additional drivers and passengers whose vehicles suspension parts [are] at an imminent risk of failure,” the lawsuit says.
The filers of the lawsuit also says that Tesla required some owners to sign non-disclosure agreements in exchange for “goodwill repairs” of the vehicle and tried to dodge a recall by issuing technical service bulletins.
The lawsuit cites complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a recent recall of vehicles sold to Chinese customers that had issues with its suspension similar to those experienced by the complainants.
The recall in China involved a crack in the ball studs of the rear connecting rod in the front suspension that could cause the ball-end cone seat to separate from the steering knuckle. In some cases, the wheel can completely detach from the car.
In response to the complaints, Tesla has said that the damage may be caused or exacerbated by abuse from drivers. Owners of the affected Model X and Model S vehicles say that this is simply an attempt by the company to dodge responsibility for the problem. After all, it is not likely that many owners are doing wheelies or racing their vehicles in reverse, even though such activities may make for an entertaining YouTube video.
Because Tesla has apparently sacked its entire public relations department recently, it has not issued an official statement on issues like the damaged suspension and an exploit that allowed sophisticated car thieves to steal its vehicles. A brief glance at the company’s career page does not seem to indicate that it has plans to hire new PR staff, though it definitely has job openings for its new Gigafactory in Texas.
Although Tesla has had some luck with fighting legal battles such as one involving a former employee that stole sensitive company data, it may have less luck fending off a lawsuit involving a known issue with some vehicle models that it attempted to cover up. Issues such as this were a major reason that Consumer Reports downgraded the Model S and Model Y in its recently released Auto Reliability Survey.
Even if Tesla does manage to fight off or settle this lawsuit, the poor reliability of some of its vehicle models is likely to hurt sales in the long term. This could cause its stock to lose some of its luster even though it was recently admitted to the S&P 500 index. As importantly, Tesla’s poor reaction to a potential safety issue will accomplish nothing except put consumers at risk, cause the company to get hit with endless lawsuits, and attract the attention of consumer safety regulators.