Fresh off a successful launch of its new mainstream Model 3, Tesla Motors has been forced to recall the Model X crossover due to problems in a third-row seat that failed an internal crash test.
Tesla notified customers of the recall this morning. The automaker discovered the flaw as it prepared to launch the electric crossover Model X in Europe. The European Union has stricter safety standards than the U.S., and during a frontal-crash test a latch meant to hold the seat upright collapsed under the weight of a simulated passenger.
Tesla’s head of global sales and service noted “We’ve had no issues with failures in the field. But consistent with Tesla’s approach, we’re erring on the side of putting our customers’ safety first.”
This is the first official recall for the Model X. The SUV crossover joined the Model S sedan last September. The Model X was marked by several manufacturing glitches, mostly involving the troublesome upward-opening falcon-wing doors, as well as the independently moving seats in the second row. The Model S also was beset by problems, with a 2013 recall involving a seat-welding issue. Last November, Tesla recalled all Model S vehicles delivered before Nov. 19 because of a problem with the front seat belt, which could prevent it from latching properly.
It was precisely these kinds of manufacturing glitches that caused some observers to predict Tesla would struggle to mass produce the Model 3, which received more than 350,000 pre-orders and is expected to deliver in about 24 months.
Vehicles impacted by the recall include around 2,700 vehicles built before March 26, 2016, all in the USA. According to McNeill, Tesla will finish replacing the defective seats within five weeks at its factory-owned service centers.
Tesla will now issue a formal recall notice through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although the issue only violates EU safety standards, Tesla decided to move forward with an American recall because “our European customers and our American customers are equally important to us,” said McNeil.
The seats in question were supplied by Futuris Group, an Australian company that supplies Tesla from its California factory, a short drive from Tesla’s Fremont factory. Futuris is expected to pay the costs of the recall because Tesla says the problem stems from a manufacturing error rather than a design flaw.
Model X owners who are still driving the car should not let passengers in the third-row seats until they are replaced, said McNeil in an email to customers. “We recognize that not having the use of your third-row seats for the next few weeks will be an inconvenience, but your safety is our primary concern,” the e-mail said. “We assure you that we are building your new seat backs as fast as we can.”
Tesla said the seat backs will only take a few hours to be replaced. As for concerns about whether this will dim enthusiasm for the Model 3, Tesla will probably take a minor hit, but interest in the Model 3 will not wane. Consumers should be advised, however, that Tesla will naturally have some manufacturing issues since they are building a new car from scratch. Producing over 300,000 cars is no easy feat. Tesla should be praised for putting its drivers’ safety first by being proactive in the U.S. and Europe.