A Tesla Recall? Not Exactly, Says Elon Musk

"The word "recall" needs to be recalled," the car company's founder writes in a tweet.

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Stephen Lam / REUTERS

Elon Musk, Chief Executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, smiles during the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco June 18, 2013.

A federal regulator said Tuesday that electric carmaker Tesla Motors is recalling nearly 30,000 of its sedans—even as Tesla founder Elon Musk disputed the term “recall.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tesla is recalling 29,222 Model S electric sedans because parts of the charging equipment could overheat and pose a risk of burning or fire. The recall will not require the physical return of the vehicles, and NHTSA said in a notice on its website that Tesla has already begun providing owners of the possibly affected cars a software update and a replacement electrical adapter to eliminate the problem.

But Tesla had announced the fixes on Friday and informed NHTSA of the problem in a letter dated Monday in which it referred to the possibility of “excessive heating of the adapter.” The company said it was not a “safety matter” because the potential damage would be contained in the compartment. Unlike the NHTSA, the letter did not call the fixes a “recall.”

The NHTSA  announced the recall on the second day of the Detroit auto show—where a Tesla executive said Tesla deliveries surpassed expectations in the fourth quarter—but Tesla founder and CEO Musk still found time to take to Twitter:

Tesla cars have come under scrutiny for a series of reports of overheating and fires, though none have resulted in serious injury. In November, Musk said Tesla requested NHTSA to open an investigation into two incidents with the aim of dispelling concerns over the car’s safety.

9 comments
AlanDeanFoster
AlanDeanFoster

"...series of reports of overheating and fires."


3 fires, one plug overheating.  


We have a different definition of "series".

JackB125
JackB125

The NHTSA “recall” actions that Tesla has taken have to do with potential overheating of NEMA 14-50 outlets that can be used to charge the Model S.  But, I wouldn't characterize these actions as a “recall” at all.  Rather, a more accurate term would be “preventative upgrade” or perhaps a “safety enhancement”. There are two reasons for this…


1. Tesla’s “preventative upgrades” are meant to help prevent overheating during charging with a NEMA 14-50 outlet due to incorrect/faulty wiring of or defects with the outlet.  And, responsibility for the wiring of the outlet as well as the outlet itself lie with the electrician or homeowner that installed the outlet and the outlet manufacturer.


2. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CURRENT ADAPTER OR THE CHARGER.


What prompted all this was a November garage fire in Irvine, California.  The Orange County Fire Authority reported that there were no signs of electrical arcing in the outlet or wiring.  With no evidence of arcing, the most likely cause of the fire would be what is called a “glowing” or high resistance connection within the NEMA 14-50 outlet or, more likely, the wiring to that outlet.


Note that the NEMA 14-50 outlet is the same type of outlet used with virtually all electric and “dual fuel” ranges in home kitchens.  Also, if you would like more information on “glowing” connections, see http://glowingconnection.com/faq.html


So what exactly did Tesla provide?  Two things…


1. A recently released software upgrade that lowers the charge rate when current fluctuations are detected; and,


2. An upgraded NEMA 14-50 adapter which now includes a thermal fuse that will open and stop the flow of electricity if the outlet overheats for any reason.


So, even though RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE OUTLET AND ITS WIRING IS COMPLETELY OUTSIDE OF TESLA'S PURVIEW, the company has provided its customers with what additional protection it can for faulty wiring of or defects with NEMA 14-50 outlets.  It’s not a recall and has nothing to do with any problem with a Tesla made product.  These actions are for protection against other parties’ faulty installations and/or product defects.


LauraHerman
LauraHerman

The way I understand it, this campaign (really more accurate than the term recall in this case) is to prevent fires and/or damaged charging adapters as a result of improperly installed wiring by the homeowner, not with the vehicle charger or the vehicle itself. I imagine this was a PR move and also done to prevent the stock from taking a hit since so many people just want this company to fail. The car won't be seen by Tesla nor will it require anything to be done except throwing the old adapter and replacing it with this one. Not many people actually use that specific adapter anyway since its not used by people with Teslas HPWC which is what most people use and is hard wired into the house. Seems like its the same old story: Tesla has a non-story worthy event blown up into some sort or Armageddon type scenario, yet other car markers have hundreds of recalls every year and its hardly mentioned in most cases. How much do those manufacturers pay you to sensationalize these things Time?

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

Given the reality behind this, I have to admit the whole article is off base when calling this a "recall", since no vehicles have to be taken anywhere and there's nothing mechanically wrong with them.

It's like a company sold some computers with bad power cables, then mailed the power cables to customers who bought the computer, and applied a patch to the software so the new power cables would work better than the old ones did.

One wonders how much stock on other car companies the author (or Time) has.

AlberticoPerez
AlberticoPerez

 There is not a single Tesla Model S vehicle recall... Nada, zip, zero. Totally misleading article.


They are only replacing Wall Adapters which they are mailing to Model S owners.


This whole thing reeks of someone trying to short Tesla stock.

Yoshi
Yoshi

Okay Elon, how about "call-back"? Seriously, though, call it what you will, it means the same thing. Calling a Pinto a Bentley doesn't make it one.

rfahey
rfahey

@Yoshi I guess you'd be the one ding-dong at the Tesla store whining about a recall that doesn't exist. I'm glad you don't have one.

killerdrgn
killerdrgn

@Yoshi Call-back wouldn't be the correct term either. It should actually be termed a patch as all it involved was a software update that was already performed. And sending out a new power cable.

There was no moving of the car to any specific location to get the fixes.

Yoshi
Yoshi

@rfahey@YoshiSeems the whining is coming from Elon, and his fan boys.....

"ding-dong", hah!