Tesla Motors was chided by U.S. authorities for allegedly reaching out to a customer experiencing a suspension failure in their Model S sedan with an offer to cover the out-of-warranty repair costs in exchange for their silence on the failures, reports Automotive News.
The alleged suspension failure issue specifically has to do with the front control arm assembly of the Model S. Sudden, unexpected suspension failure in any car constitutes a serious safety hazard as it may be difficult for the driver – or, in the case of the Model S, the Autopilot software – to safely bring the car to a stop at the roadside.
After blog the Daily Kanban reported on the purported suspension failures and alleged efforts by Tesla to keep them quiet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a US federal transportation safety regulator, scorned Tesla and announced it would review the situation.
“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 [from future customer agreements],” the regulator said in a statement.
The NHTSA referred to the customer gag-order as a “troublesome non-disclosure agreement,” no doubt particularly unsettling to the agency because it would likely shut the NHTSA out of investigating the customers’ automotive safety concerns.
UPDATE: Tesla Motors posted a blog late June 10 explaining the alleged suspension failure was an unusual isolated incident, and that its offer to repair the suspension for free was part of a “goodwill agreement.”
The agreement included a clause drafted to prevent Tesla from being gone after in court, the blog post explained, and did not ask the customer from refraining to speak to the authorities.
Tesla has since revised the language in its agreement; the NHTSA says it is satisfied with the new wording, reports Reuters.
In unrelated Tesla news, the company has re-introduced production of a less-expensive, reduced-range Model S coined the Model S 60. This vehicle, equipped with a smaller battery pack, can muster 338 kilometers per charge–still plenty of range for most urban drivers.
The vehicle is thought to be filling the gap in sales until customers can take delivery of the newly launched, lower-cost Model 3. The Model S 60 is available in the Canadian market with a base price of $86,000 (before incentives) and will be available with all-wheel drive in a version badged the Model S 60D.