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Tesla argues no defect on suspension, says China is forcing unnecessary recall

Tesla is arguing that there’s actually no defect with its Model S/Model X suspension and that China is basically forcing an unnecessary recall.

Earlier today, we reported on Tesla recalling almost 30,000 Model S and Model X vehicles that were shipped to China over an alleged issue with its suspension.

As we stated in the report, there were a few things that were strange about this report — primarily the fact that it only affected Model S and Model X vehicles sent to China between 2013 and 2017 even though those vehicles were produced in the US, and Tesla used the same suspension as all other Model S and Model X produced during that period.

But now, we learned that Tesla disagrees with the Chinese authorities about the need to recall those vehicles and argues that there’s no defect.

Electrek obtained a letter that Elizabeth H. Mykytiuk, Tesla’s managing counsel for regulatory affairs, sent to NTHSA to tell them about the recall in China.

In the letter, Mykytiuk alleged that China forced Tesla to issue the recall.

“Due to the opinion of SAMR/DPAC that the topic required a recall in the China market, Tesla was left with the choice of either voluntarily recalling the subject vehicles or carrying a heavy burden through the Chinese administrative process. While Tesla disagrees with the opinion of SAMR/DPAC, the Company has decided not to dispute a recall for the China market only.”

Instead of a defect, Tesla puts the blame on drivers.

Mykytiuk wrote in the letter to NHTSA:

“Tesla has not determined that a defect exists in either the Front Suspension Aft Link or the Rear Suspension Upper Link and believes the root cause of the issue is driver abuse, including that driver usage and expectation for damageability is uniquely severe in the China market. If the customer inputs an abuse load (e.g., curb impact, severe pothole strike, etc.), then the parts may be damaged, leading either to immediate failure or delayed failure from the compounding effects of the initial abuse and subsequent load input.”

Tesla said that the failure in question happened in less than 0.05% of vehicles outside of China and in about 0.1% of vehicles in China.

As we previously reported, NHTSA has investigated a potential issue in Tesla’s Model S and Model X suspension back in 2016, but they didn’t find any defect.

Here’s Tesla’s letter to NHTSA over the issue in full:

[scribd id=481323122 key=key-c0djuWfdqswYD8Jf1oLw mode=scroll]

Electrek’s Take

I have two main takeaways here.

First off, Tesla’s data does seem to indicate that the failure is twice as more likely to happen in China than anywhere else.

Therefore, it does seem that a factor outside of Tesla is influencing that — likely Chinese roads or drivers — and gives weight to Tesla’s argument.

However, and to my second point, the recall is only for vehicles produced up to 2017.

What did Tesla change, if anything, around that time to make the Chinese authorities decide that vehicles prior to 2017 are the only ones affected by the recall?

That would be nice to know, and it would help us better understand the situation.

Unfortunately, Tesla has no official channel of communications for us to reach out to about this.

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