A Look At The Confrontation Between Tesla And The NHTSA

Posted on January 20, 2014

Last week, a series of vehicles had to be recalled not for an issue with the line of vehicles itself, but for a component of the charger used to provide the vehicles with power.  The recall affected the Model S from Tesla, the company that has been leading the charge for the adoption of electric vehicles across the country.  This adoption has taken awhile to get started but slowly seems to be picking up steam, despite media reports that suggest these vehicles may be prone to fires, a depiction that the people at Tesla characterize as patently unfair.

The entire situation is showcased in a new report that looks at how the relatively young vehicle company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seem to be butting heads.  It’s a great read for anyone who is interested in purchasing a Tesla Model S or wondering about the safety of the vehicles.

This latest recall has its genesis back in November.  At that time, there was a fire that took place near a Model S vehicle.  That unit happened to be positioned in a garage in Irvine, California, and Tesla attributes the blaze to wiring within the house.  However, officials in Orange County would not rule out the possibility that the charger was the culprit.

The incident led the company to send out a software update that was intended to correct a potential overheating issue should it arise.  In the intervening weeks, though, there has arisen a few other reports of chargers experiencing the effects of overheating, and Tesla decided to ship owners new adapters that should further enhance the safety of the vehicles and chargers.

Because this was a safety issue associated with a component of a vehicle, the NHTSA classified it as a recall.  This apparently has not sat well with the vehicle maker.  The cofounder of the company Tweeted his apparent distaste for the classification of this latest issue as a recall, and he later pointed out that the situation was akin to recalling a house because of wiring that was defective in the home.  He does not believe that a charger-related issue would fall within the purview of the safety agency.

A Center for Auto Safety representative pointed out that officials with Tesla are likely going through the same headaches that other automakers faced in years past as the NHTSA began to assert their authority.  A Kelley Blue book representative seconds that point, suggesting that persons who have been in the business for awhile wouldn’t spark a battle with the NHTSA in full view of the public.

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