Federal regulators in the US have started to investigate whether electric car maker Tesla sought confidentiality deals with customers over suspension problems in its Model S sedans.
The US National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) said customers may have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements following reports of a possible defect causing suspension control arms to break and the driver to lose control of the car.
Bryan Thomas, an NHTSA spokesman, said the agency was “examining the potential suspension issue on the Tesla Model S, and is seeking additional information from vehicle owners and the company”.
A review is a step before the agency decides whether to open a formal investigation leading to a potential safety recall.
NHTSA said it had learned that Tesla had entered into what it called a “troublesome nondisclosure agreement” with a Tesla Model S owner who had suspension problems.
A Tesla spokeswoman said she was looking into NHTSA’s statement but declined to immediately elaborate further.
NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said the agency was in “data collection mode”.
“Part of what we have to figure out is whether or not [non-disclosure agreements] might have impeded people making [complaints],” Rosekind said, adding that the agency has been in touch with Tesla seeking information. “Our folks were on this right away.”
It was not clear how many other similar non-disclosure agreements, if any, Tesla may have with other owners, Rosekind said.
Tesla recalled nearly 59,000 2012-2015 Model S vehicles in the United States in November for seatbelts that may have been improperly connected to the pretensioner, which could mean front seat occupants might not be properly restrained in the event of a crash. There were no reports of crashes or injuries.