Tesla Software Recall Tries to Head Off Fight with U.S. Regulatory Agencies

Tesla’s recent software update to cars sold in Europe and China may be an attempt to head off a fight with US regulatory agencies. The company has been criticized for not recalling vehicles that were found to have faulty airbags made by Japan’s Takata Corp.

The recall is Tesla’s first since it began selling vehicles, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it will analyze the steps taken by Tesla before deciding whether or not they comply with US regulations on recalls of defective products.

Tesla informed customers around the world that they should have their cars updated, adding that Takata airbags are likely to inflate with too much pressure, which can burst and hurl shrapnel into the driver or passengers. This is a safety issue.The glitch was first reported by Tesla owner Touraj Atoufi in December. He found out about it when his car started beeping and refused to start, forcing him to open the battery compartment and cut a wire leading to the airbags.

The only US Tesla owner reported having the problem was a customer in Candian who posted a video on Youtube of a loud bang coming from one of the doors.

Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean confirmed that the recall applied to 691 cars in Europe, including Norway.

The company said it determined the issue only affected customers in regions with very hot weather, particularly in southern states of the US. That excludes customers in Canada and other countries where temperatures are low.

Tesla said that it had analyzed all airbags installed in its cars since October 1st, 2015 when it began equipping the vehicles with a new type of airbag, one that is not affected by moisture. The analysis found only 30 Takata inflators were defective among about 40,000 samples.

Takata staff at a conference in July 2015 had told Takata staff that the company had already been working with Tesla to resolve this problem, people with knowledge of the matter said.Tesla customers have been left puzzled as they have received no recall notice from the US Department of Transportation’s NHTSA.

In May 2014, Tesla owners posted on online forums saying their airbags had ruptured, and Tesla subsequently sent a notice telling owners to take their cars in for repairs. Atoufi said he received no such email notification about his car, which has been out of service since December as it is too expensive to fix.

NHTSA officials said on Friday they will review the steps taken by Tesla before deciding whether or not they comply with US regulations on recalls of defective products.

Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd, a Chicago-based software and information technology business said the move is unusual for Tesla which usually lets owners know about any problems through over-the-air updates or on its website.

They are putting the responsibility on the consumer and I think that’s a good place for them to be, he said.

Tesla has said that it has never gone over the air with vehicle repairs other than to deliver software updates or resolve smaller issues like opening trunk lids remotely if they were not functioning correctly.