In the past few weeks, we reported on a Tesla Model X owner in California who sued Tesla over what he claims was a sudden acceleration caused by his all-electric SUV. The result – as shown above – was his Model X crashing through his garage and into his living room. The automaker says that the logs show the driver pressed on the accelerator when he should have been pressing on the brake pedal.
As we reported last week, the owner of the Model X, a celebrity in Korea, has launched a media campaign to discredit Tesla and now his lawyer says that they are seeking a recall from NHTSA and compares the situation to Toyota’s $1.6 billion settlement for sudden acceleration events.
In an interview with Korea’s The Investor, Son Ji-chang and his attorney, Richard McCune of McCune Wright Arevalo LLP, said that they are “seeking to enlist support from US auto safety investigators to pressure Tesla into carrying out a recall of its Model X vehicles”.
McCune, whose firm was the first to file a class action during the Toyota’s 2009 sudden acceleration claims, said:
“Our main objective is to get this fixed, whether it’s the government or through the lawsuit. That’s not as nearly important to us if it checks before somebody gets hurt really bad.”
They are referencing other complaints about sudden acceleration events in the Model X – something we have already reported about and in each case, the evidence points toward pedal misapplication, including in one particular case where the logs were reviewed by a third-party.
The comparison with Toyota’s issue and the fact that Son hired a lawyer who was involved is particularly interesting when you consider that the Department of Transportation “concluded that, other than a number of incidents caused by accelerators hanging up on incorrectly fitted floor mats, the accidents were mostly caused by drivers using the wrong pedal” – something Son denied.
His lawyer said in the interview:
“I can tell you from our perspective that Mr. Son knows what he did and what he did not as no reasonable person would just put the pedal all the way down to the floor as they are approaching a garage that goes through their living room. That doesn’t make any sense. I think Tesla will try to resort to the data logs to support their position. I think when we review what they have, it seems like there are some inconsistencies which would indicate to us that it is not reliable.”
Nonetheless, Toyota handled the situation poorly and ended up being fined by the DOT and settled several lawsuits regarding sudden acceleration events despite no evidence of problems with the electronic throttle controls and instead, only driver errors and bad floor mat configurations were determined to be the root cause.
An important difference is that several people died with Toyota’s issue, especially since it could happen at higher speeds when people were flooring the accelerator to overtake someone for example. If the pedal got stuck in the floor mat in those situations, it can be extremely dangerous. In the case of Tesla, almost all reported incidents were in parking lots, driveways, and garages, when drivers were about to park and should have come to a complete stop. While it’s still dangerous to press the wrong pedal in those situations, it’s less than having it stuck at high-speed when pressing the right pedal.
Tesla is in much better position to handle the situation with its sensors and vehicle logs providing more data about what happens with the pedals and its ability to try to mitigate the impact of pedal misapplication through over-the-air software updates, but it looks like the lawsuit will still drain some resources from the company.