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NHTSA Launches Probe of Tesla Over a Software Update

Tesla Model S | Photo: Tesla
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Khatir Soltani
Around 2,000 Model S and Model X vehicles are targeted by the NHTSE inquiry

Earlier this year Tesla sent out a software update to owners of 2012-2019 Model S and Model X vehicles related to the system managing the battery. Now the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has opened an inquiry to determine if Tesla should instead have issued a recall to fix an issue with the system.

The documents the NHTSA has published related to the probe show that some owners were suspecting that the software update was in reality sent out to fix a problem that should have been addressed via a recall. The documents also refer to owners reporting reduced range from their vehicles (by about 25 miles or 40 km).

The problem referred to by the NHTSA related to a possible risk of fire, but not caused by an accident. In all, some 2,000 vehicles could be affected by the problem. The agency is seeking to determine if Tesla intentionally tried to avoid issuing a recall and failed to report the potential problem to the NHTSA.

It’s not the first time that owners have made their dissatisfaction known regarding this software update sent out by Tesla. A class-action suit filed in August accused Tesla of knowing that the 2,000 models were defective and that the software update would cut into the vehicles’ range, and that it acted this way to avoid having to honour the vehicles’ warranty which covers battery replacement.

Nor is this the first time the NHTSA has taken a closer interest in Tesla. Last week, the agency said that it had received reports of several incidents in connection with the Tesla Smart Summon function. This system allows owners to control the car remotely using an application, for example by telling it to come pick it up at a specific location like the exit of a parking lot. It appears the system still has a number of bugs, details of which have regularly made the rounds of social media.

Khatir Soltani
Khatir Soltani
Automotive expert
  • Over 6 years experience as a car reviewer
  • Over 50 test drives in the last year
  • Involved in discussions with virtually every auto manufacturer in Canada