Tesla Motors has responded to the report that regulators are investigating issues with the Model S sedan’s suspension and with an agreement the automaker asked an owner who had problems with the suspension to sign. In a lengthy blog posted on its website, Tesla not only responded to the allegations about the suspension problems but also attacked the journalist who wrote the original report, implying that he stands to gain financially if its stock price go down.
The public spat isn’t over either, as the journalist says there’s even more to the story that he hasn’t reported yet.
Tesla: no suspension defect
In a post on Tesla’s official blog, a spokesperson suggested that investors should take the report from automotive blogger and Bloomberg View writer Edward Niedermeyer on his blog the Daily Kanban with “a grain of salt.” The post states that there aren’t any safety defects with the suspensions that are used in the Model S and Model X. The company states that it investigates whenever there is a problem with any part as it owns all of its service centers. It adds that the car which was the focus of the original port had “very abnormal rust” in the suspension ball joint,” adding that it hasn’t seen this before, which suggests that this is “a very unusual use case.”
The Tesla spokesperson also explained that the car had more than 70,000 miles on it and that its owner lived on “such a long dirt road that it required two tow trucks to retrieve the car,” one to get it to the high way and a second to get it to the service center. When the car finally arrived at the service center, it was “caked in dirt.”
Tesla defends “goodwill agreement”
Niedermeyer had reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as looking into a case in which a Model S driver lost the ability to steer after the sudden separation of the front hub assembly from the upper control arm. A spokesperson for the NHTSA later confirmed to Reuters that that were “examining the potential suspension issue” and “seeking additional information from vehicle owners and the company.”
In the official response, the Tesla spokesperson pointed out that the agency hasn’t officially opened an investigation or even begun a “preliminary evaluation.” The person also explained that the agency “informally” asked them to provide information related to the suspension issue for a “routine screening,” and they did so ten days later. The automaker added that since then, the NHTSA said no more information is needed.
Tesla also called the idea that it would ask a customer to sign an agreement to keep them from speaking to government agencies about problems with their car “preposterous.” However, it admitted that sometimes it does ask customers to sign a “goodwill agreement” for the purpose of ensuring that it “doesn’t do a good deed, only to have that used against us in court for further gain.” It said the document doesn’t mention any government agency and isn’t meant to keep owners from taking about regulators.
Tesla implies short-sellers are attacking
Perhaps the most surprising part of the automaker’s official statement is the section where it tries to discredit Niedermeyer and even implies that perhaps he is selling its shares short and stands to gain financially if its stock declines. Tesla also states that he “fabricated this issue, which then caused negative and incorrect news to be written about Tesla by reputable institutions” and pointed to a blog post he wrote in 2008 when he said the automaker was on “death watch.”
Niedermeyer isn’t taking the accusations lying down. In an interview with Breitbart, he claims there is much more to the story that he hasn’t revealed yet.
“I would say I’m more disappointed than surprised by Tesla’s response,” he told the website. “It’s a pretty typical diversionary PR tactic that’s not going to work because there is a lot more to this story that will be coming out.”
On Twitter, he blasted the automaker for not spelling his name correctly and for claiming to know his motives for his report. He also noted that he wasn’t the one to start the reports about Tesla being on death watch, as he said it came from The Truth about Cars blog. He also said he doesn’t “play the market long or short or professionally advise anyone who does.”
Niedermeyer told Breitbart also that anyone who is remotely critical of the automaker or its CEO Elon Musk is dismissed by groupies as being a “shill for big-oil or a Tesla short seller,” adding that “It’s really getting old, and not it’s even good for Tesla.”
Shares of the electric vehicle manufacturer slumped by as much as 4.25% to $219.61 in afternoon trading on Friday.