Tesla Inc is under investigation by U.S. regulators over complaints that the steering wheels of some new Model Y vehicles may detach during use. NHTSA said it was aware of two incidents in which drivers’ wheels came off steering columns while driving 2023 model year SUVs. Initial assessments began March 4 for an estimated 120,089 vehicles, according to a document posted on NHTSA’s website.
The agency said the affected vehicles were delivered to their owners without steering wheel deadbolts installed. NHTSA is evaluating the “extent, frequency and manufacturing process associated with this situation.” NHTSA said there are currently no reported injuries related to the issue.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
NHTSA’s move is the latest in a string of investigations into Tesla, its products and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk. The Austin, Texas-based automaker recalled 362,758 of its electric vehicles last month after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tesla’s Autopilot technology could increase the risk of crashes.
A Tesla owner in New Jersey posted photos on Twitter in January of what appeared to be a steering wheel detached from a Model Y he had received a few days earlier. In a subsequent tweet, he said Tesla agreed to replace the vehicle and that NHTSA had contacted him about the issue.
Shares of Tesla were down 3.2% at 9:50 a.m. in New York.
The Model Y is a key product for Tesla, and the company recently started producing the car at two of its newest factories — one outside Berlin and the other in Austin. The company reported combined Model Y and Model 3 deliveries, delivering more than 1.2 million vehicles last year. The Model Y was the best-selling electric car in the world last year, according to BloombergNEF, and it could be one of the top cars of any kind this year.
Steering wheel detachment, while rare, is not unique to Tesla.
In August, Ford Motor Company recalled 692 F-53 Motorhome Stripped Chassis and F-59 Commercial Stripped Chassis vehicles because the steering wheel attachment bolts may become loose and separate from the steering column. It also recalled about 1.3 million Ford and Lincoln-branded vehicles in 2018 for similar issues.
First published date: March 9, 2023 at 08:19 AM CST