Tesla has recalled nearly 30,000 Model X and Model Y vehicles that were imported to China due to a suspension issue. The defect was discovered in vehicles that were manufactured at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, and then shipped overseas.
According to a news release issued by China’s State Administration of Market Regulation, the affected vehicles have a crack in the ball studs of the rear connecting rod in the front suspension. The crack could have grown over time and, in extreme cases, cause the ball-end cone seat to separate from the steering knuckle. This could have impacted the driver’s ability to control the vehicle.
The recall covers vehicles manufactured at the Fremont factory from September 17, 2013, to August 16, 2017. Tesla has indicated that it will replace the part in affected vehicles for free. The new parts will likely have to be shipped from the U.S. to China.
This appears to be a voluntary recall on Tesla’s part, which may indicate a better attitude toward consumer safety than many publicly traded companies take. BP suffered a public relations nightmare due to its poor response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in which the CEO said that he “wants his life back,” a statement for which he later apologized. Pedigree came under fire in 2015 for claiming that fibers in its dog food that were making dogs sick were actually “harmless”.
Due to less than stellar decisions like this, regulators usually reserve the option of issuing an involuntary recall if necessary. Tesla has simply decided not to wait for the government to take action.
It may be that Tesla takes the long view regarding its own reputation. Investors would not react well if sales plummet because its vehicles develop a reputation for being unsafe. It’s easier to send parts to the 24 service centers that Tesla has in China and have technicians spend a few hours replacing a part than to spend years patching things up because a part broke and contributed to an accident.
On the flip side, this could come off as another notch in Tesla’s push to have some of the safest vehicles on the road. The same incentive could be part of CEO Elon Musk’s push to pursue a wide release of the Full Self-Driving software by the end of the year. Normalizing self-driving vehicles could go a long way in reducing traffic accidents and fatalities in which human error is a factor. For reference, a 2015 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 94% of traffic accidents were caused by human error.
According to the news release, a total of 29,193 vehicles will have the affected parts in their suspension units replaced. Consumers are, of course, encouraged to check the appropriate government website whether any item they are considering purchasing may be subject to a recall. (In the United States of America, that site is Recalls.gov.) This is equally true if they are considering buying a used item because the seller may be unaware that there is a recall and simply does not need the item anymore.