Tesla’s cars might continue to break both sales and performance records, but their build quality still leaves a lot to be desired – as the brand’s latest awkward recall demonstrates.
Tesla is recalling nearly 1.1 million US vehicles because the window automatic reversal system may not react correctly after detecting an obstruction, increasing the risk of injury, Reuters reports. Essentially, the windows are supposed to stop closing if they detect an obstacle in their path – like a finger or hand – but in some instances, they don’t, leading to pinched fingers… Or worse.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that this fault means affected vehicles, which includes some 2017-2022 Model 3, 2020-2021 Model Y, and 2021-2022 Model S / Model X vehicles, fail to comply with the requirements of a federal motor vehicle safety standard on power windows – not a trivial thing. (A recall notice for the fault has yet to be issued in Australia.)
Apparently, this has been a problem with Tesla vehicles for a while now. As software engineer James Nelson has shared on LinkedIn, “I love my Tesla… [but] my car is of questionable reliability and unsafe for children who are too young to take instructions or get in and out of their seatbelts on their own.”
“Every time I get out of my car I leave at least one door open until everyone is in and everyone is out, but worrying about that on a $65+k (before tax) car is surprising to say the least.”James Nelson
Okay, so some Teslas are pinching peoples’ fingers. What’s the big deal? Well, what’s interesting is how Tesla plans to fix the problem – as well as whether you can really call it a ‘recall’.
Tesla isn’t recalling the cars in the traditional sense. What they’re going to do is push an over-the-air software update that will “enhance the calibration of the vehicle’s automatic window reversal system behaviour,” as Tesla describes it. That’s right – just like a mobile phone or a computer, Tesla’s just making you do a system update. Welcome to modern motoring, people.
And that’s kind of the point: some critics, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, have suggested that calling this a ‘recall’ is a bit misleading. “The terminology is outdated & inaccurate. This is a tiny over-the-air software update. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no injuries,” Musk said in a now-deleted Tweet.
Still, as superficially trivial as this problem might seem, it’s embarrassing that Tesla has to keep recalling (or should we say ‘bug fixing’) their vehicles like this.
“Traditional automotive suppliers have been getting this right for decades. I remember a “crush the soda can” informational demo at a supplier in the 1990s,” Phillip Koopman, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University and vehicle safety expert relates.
“Some Model 3 years now have an astounding 13 recalls and 4 investigations listed on the NHTSA recall website. Sadly we are now seeing how ‘move fast and break things’ turns out for automotive safety. And there are many years left for age-related issues to crop up.”
Tesla has long sought to be as independent as possible when it comes to its supply chains – a practice that has helped them weather many of the supply chain-related issues that have plagued the auto industry over the last few years, especially the global chip shortage.
At the same time, Tesla’s cars remain plagued by generally poor levels of quality control, especially among US-made vehicles (it’s widely acknowledged that Chinese-made Teslas boast superior build quality to their US-made counterparts). Clearly doing everything themselves isn’t completely working out for them.
Elon Musk has previously called safety regulators “the fun police” but trivialising safety concerns like these – even relatively benign ones like pinched fingers in windows – doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence…