Tesla is now under NHTSA scrutiny over Model S/X suspension after disputing recall in China

Tesla is now facing NHTSA scrutiny with a new preliminary evaluation over potential suspension failures in Model S and Model X vehicles produced between 2015 and 2017.

The new investigation comes after Tesla started a recall over the issue for vehicles in China, but the automaker argues that there’s no defect and China is forcing an unnecessary recall.

Earlier this month, we reported on Tesla recalling almost 30,000 Model S and Model X vehicles that were shipped to China over an alleged issue with its suspension.

As we stated in the report, there were a few things that were strange about this report — primarily the fact that it only affected Model S and Model X vehicles sent to China between 2013 and 2017 even though those vehicles were produced in the US, and Tesla used the same suspension as all other Model S and Model X produced during that period.

Later, we learned that Tesla disagrees with the Chinese authorities about the need to recall those vehicles and argues that there’s no defect.

Tesla said that the failure in question happened in less than 0.05% of vehicles outside of China and in about 0.1% of vehicles in China.

The automaker blames the higher rate in China on “driver abuse, including that driver usage and expectation for damageability is uniquely severe in the China market. If the customer inputs an abuse load (e.g., curb impact, severe pothole strike, etc.).”

Now we’ve learned that NHTSA is looking into the front suspension issue as well.

The U.S. transport agency overseeing the auto industry announced that it started a new preliminary evaluation into the alleged defect that could affect 114,761 Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles in the US produced between 2015 and 2017:

NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received 43 complaints alleging failure of the left or right front suspension fore links in Tesla model year (MY) 2015 through 2017 Model S and MY 2016 through 2017 Model X vehicles. Thirty-two (32) of the complaints involve failures that occurred during low-speed parking maneuvers (e.g., backing from driveway or parking space at speeds below 10 mph). Eleven (11) incidents occurred while driving (e.g., incidents on roadways at speeds above 10 mph), including four at highway speeds. The complaints appear to indicate an increasing trend, with 34 complaints received in the last two years and three of the incidents at highway speeds reported within the last three months. In addition, ODI has identified eight complaints that may involve front fore link failure, but have not been confirmed by repair records or photographs. The potential fore link failures were all reported in the last two years and include two incidents that occurred while driving.”

Interestingly, back in 2016, NHTSA supposedly did investigate a very similarly described alleged defect in the Model S suspension after several complaints, though many of them not made by Tesla owners, were filed with the agency, but they determined that there was no defect at the time.

Now the new “Preliminary Evaluation” aims to “evaluate the scope, frequency and consequences of the alleged defect.”

Here’s the full report:

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