Feds Accelerate Tesla Steering Probe: Could This be Linked to Thousands of Crashes?

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Federal investigators are now actively analyzing steering rack parts that have been linked to thousands of Tesla crashes. Typically, an engineering analysis is the last investigative step before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a recall.

Affected drivers reported being unable to turn the steering wheel either while driving or when starting their vehicles. Most reports were for vehicles traveling between 5 mph and 35 mph — with at least one steering wheel failure at 75 mph, the Office of Defects Investigation said.

The probe’s progress

In a Feb. 1 announcement, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said it’s escalating the probe initially opened on July 28, 2023. The initial evaluation stemmed from 12 reports by 2023 Model 3 and Y owners. Additionally, investigators uncovered 2,264 complaints through manufacturer data.

Most drivers reported seeing a warning message around the time of the steering failure. In at least 50 cases, drivers were unable to move their vehicles after the steering failure and had to be towed out of intersections, roadways, driveways, and parking lots, the ODI said.

Turning the Tesla off and back on temporarily solved the problem for some Tesla owners, but the problem recurred. Replacing the steering rack resolved the issue.

Tesla’s troubles

The high sales price of Teslas isn’t the only high cost drivers of the EVs face. Tesla car insurance is historically higher than coverage for other makes — an average of $231 per month for a Model 3, Insurify data shows. The average for a Model Y is $205 per month. By contrast, the overall national average cost of car insurance is $155 per month.

The high cost of replacement parts significantly contributes to higher insurance costs for Tesla owners. And the design of some Teslas makes it nearly impossible to replace a damaged battery — meaning an accident that would otherwise be minor may total a Tesla if the accident damages the battery.

In 2019, Tesla launched its own telematics-based car insurance product in select states. The coverage relies on real-time data that tracks driver behavior using technology already available in Models S, X, Y, and 3 vehicles. But Tesla insurance is currently facing a class-action lawsuit by policyholders who say Tesla overcharged them based on false forward-collision warnings.

What’s next?

After a preliminary evaluation of data and documents, the ODI will now conduct an engineering analysis of the affected steering racks. The analysis may include additional information requests to Tesla, information requests to other manufacturers, and parts testing.

If the analysis finds a defect that affects vehicle safety, the NHTSA can require Tesla to issue a recall of affected models.

This article originally appeared on Insurify and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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