Federal auto safety regulators are looking into reports of a flaw in some Tesla models that could cause the driver to lose control of the car.
They’re also looking into reports that Tesla ( has been asking owners to sign non-disclosure agreements before the automaker would pay for repairs. )
The agreements reportedly required that vehicle owners don’t say anything to anyone about the problem, the repair or even about the agreement itself.
“NHTSA learned of Tesla’s troublesome nondisclosure agreement last month,” said Bryan Thomas, NHTSA director of communications in a statement. “The agency immediately informed Tesla that any language implying that consumers should not contact the agency regarding safety concerns is unacceptable, and NHTSA expects Tesla to eliminate any such language.”
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Tesla did not immediately comment.
Owners have complained both to NHTSA and on discussion boards about front suspension components failing on Tesla Model S cars and on the Model X SUV. These parts help attach the wheel to the car and could cause the driver to lose control if they fail.
Last spring, Tesla issued a “Technical Service Bulletin” regarding a front suspension issue on model year 2012 and 2013 Model S cars. A bulletin is a set of instructions an automaker sends out to mechanics regarding a known problem that is not considered to be a serious safety issue. In the notice, dated March 24, 2015, Tesla describes a problem in which suspension parts “could be subject to accelerated wear.”
The apparent pattern of suspension failures and Tesla’s use of so-called NDAs were first reported by the automotive blog The Daily Kanba.
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NHTSA maintains a database of safety-related consumer complaints about vehicles. Car owners can file reports with the agency, which then decides whether the problem warrants serious investigation that could result in recalls. By stifling consumer complaints, Tesla could disrupt one of the agency’s major safety monitoring methods.
“Tesla representatives told NHTSA that it was not their intention to dissuade consumers from contacting the agency,” Thomas said in the statement. “NHTSA always encourages vehicle owners concerned about potential safety defects to contact the agency by filling a out vehicle safety complaint at SaferCar.gov.”