Tesla is recalling up to 50, 000 of its Model S and Model X electric vehicles, which were made in the U.S. and sold to customers in China, over potentially faulty and unsafe front and rear suspensions.
China’s auto industry news site, Gasgoo, reported that the recall affects 29,193 imported Model Ss and Model Xs, produced between Sept. 17, 2013, and Aug. 16, 2017, and 19,249 imported Model Ss produced between Sept. 17, 2013, and Oct. 15, 2018. The cars were produced at Tesla’s Fremont, California, vehicle assembly plant.
The traffic safety regulator for the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has not yet responded to a request for comment. Tesla has dissolved its media relations department and stopped responding to media inquiries in 2019. Emails to Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and to the defunct media relations department did not receive an immediate response.
But in a letter sent by a Tesla attorney to NHTSA on Sept. 4, the company blamed Chinese drivers for the problem, said there was no safety issue, and said it didn’t plan to issue a recall outside China.
The China agency recall offered little detail. The recall does not involve the Tesla Model 3, including the made-in-China version Tesla began assembling at its new Shanghai factory late last year.
Tesla owners at the Tesla Motor Club forum have been complaining about suspension issues since at least 2015, complaints that continue to this day. Many report that a ball joint connected to a control arm comes loose.
In the letter to NHTSA, Tesla attorney Elizabeth H. Mykytiuk wrote that “the root cause of the issue is driver abuse … that is uniquely severe in the China market.” Although the letter referred to “curb impact” and “severe pothole strike,” it offered no detail to support the claim that drivers in China abuse their cars.
The letter said “Tesla is not aware of any crashes, injuries, or deaths” related to the suspension issue. But it noted that affected owners will “receive new components” with “improved performance in abuse scenarios.”
NHTSA is investigating possible defects in Model S and X cars produced over roughly the same period, after allegations that the company installed cooling tubes that were prone to leak, causing a potential fire hazard.