Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tesla Targeted for Safety Concerns

Gray Tesla car charging

Federal regulators dropped a massive bomb on Tesla recently, releasing reports about a flaw in some Tesla models that could reportedly cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle. As a counterpunch, the NHTSA said they would look into allegations that Tesla had asked some owner to sign non-disclosure agreements before the automaker would pay for repairs.
As reported by CNN, NHTSA director of communications Bryan Thomas said, “NHTSA learned of Tesla's troublesome nondisclosure agreement last month… The agency immediately informed Tesla that any language implying consumers should not contact the agency regarding safety concerns is unacceptable, and NHTSA expects Tesla to eliminate any such language.”

All of these allegations, which could blossom into a PR problem for Elon Musk, even as his SpaceX is blowing people’s minds, stemmed from complaints from Tesla Model S owners that the cars’ front suspensions appear to be failing, which could potentially cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Tesla, as expected, fired back at both allegations…

The day after the NHTSA went public with its report, Tesla flatly denied any “widespread issue” related to the suspension parts in question. Targeting a blog post which blew the whistle on these supposed issues, Tesla said the vehicle in question had been subjected to “extreme use” and “accelerated wear.”

That second term came up in a previous Tesla disclosure, technical service bulletin, in which the company disclosed the suspension problem on certain model years of the S. The bulletin included detailed instructions for mechanics working on the vehicles, however it also stipulated the issue was not considered, by them, to be a “serious safety issue”.

The agreements regulators called legally troubling, Tesla officials referred to as “Goodwill Agreements.” Though Tesla reps said customers had agreed not to talk about suspension problems or any necessary repairs, they added these agreements were not coerced. However, the company’s explanation for the “agreement” proved troubling for regulators. According to Tesla, the point of the agreement was to block any admission of fault being leveled at the company when it opted to pay for necessary repairs beyond the normal warranty period.

Critics are not buying that excuse, and automotive watchdogs outside the NHTSA are beginning to take notice. Tesla needs to get a handle on this situation before it gains any traction and derails an otherwise impressive electric car brand.


Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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