Skip to main content

NHTSA asks Tesla to recall Model S and Model X over MCU fiasco

NHTSA is formally asking Tesla to recall over 100,000 Model S and Model X vehicles over a problem with its media unit (MCU) that can affect many functions inside the vehicles.

The entire issue has been quite a fiasco so far.

Tesla MCU/eMMC Problem

Owners of older Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles have been reporting some issues with their MCUs.

The touchscreen becomes less responsive, the power-up time becomes longer, the screen freezes and has to be rebooted, or there is even total failure of the MCU unit.

Some owners believe that it is a problem with the embedded Multi-Media-Card memory (eMMC) in the MCU and that it is being overwritten to the point of failure.

It has known as the “eMMC failure” problem.

Tesla introduced a new MCU in 2018 that doesn’t have the same problem, but owners of older vehicles are still experiencing the problem in having to replace the unit out of warranty, despite seeing Tesla’s mistake as the source of the problem instead of a normal issue that occurs over time.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that it has launched an official investigation into the matter.

A few months later, Tesla finally officially acknowledged the eMMC failure with its touchscreen and offered an extended warranty.

The move wasn’t welcomed by all Tesla owners as many thought that it didn’t go far enough in addressing what is seen by many as an important defect.

Considering there are many important functions that can only be accessed through the touchscreen/MCU in Tesla vehicles, NHTSA was looking into the matter as a potential safety issue, and despite Tesla’s warranty change, the agency was still considering a recall.

Official data released by Tesla to NTHSA showed that the failure rate of the MCU for Model S and Model X was as high as 30% in certain build months.

Furthermore, we have received may reports from owners who have had difficulties making Tesla actually change or repair their MCUs under the new warranty since the announcement – leading for many owners to call for a recall.

NHTSA asks for a recall

NHTSA has now officially asked Tesla to recall 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles over the issue – a rare move as automakers will often opted to issue voluntary recalls.

Now, Tesla has two weeks to issue a response or accept the recall.

The agency confirmed that it met with Tesla over the issue and evaluated all the information, but it determined that losing capacity of the MCU is a safety issue since a lot of important functions go through the system like windshield defogging, audible chimes, and even turn signals can be impacted.

NHTSA notes that other automakers have issued recalls for similar loss of functions.

The agency noted that the updates that Tesla released to mitigate the issue are “procedurally and substantively insufficient” and that the automaker even confirmed that all the MCUs will eventually fail.

Electrek’s Take: A fiasco that Tesla needs to make right

This whole MCU problem has been a mishandled fiasco for Tesla, and they need to finally make it right and accept that recall.

Like I reported the last time the issue was brought up, it seems likely that NHTSA would force the recall, and it looks bad for Tesla to be fighting it so hard.

There’s obviously a defect, and instead of pro-actively fixing it, Tesla is waiting for the worst case scenario to fix it, and even then, we are hearing some stories about owners having difficulties getting it fixed under warranty.

I think that in this case, Tesla needs to own up to it and take the hit.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Tesla, electric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.



Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

Fred is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Electrek.

You can send tips on Twitter (DMs open) or via email:

Through, you can check out Fred’s portfolio and get monthly green stock investment ideas.