Tesla Recalls Every Model S Over Faulty Seatbelt Assembly

Tesla Motors Inc announced that it would recall all 90,000 Model S sedans ever made in order to check for a possible fault with the front seatbelt assembly.

The company announced that the worldwide recall would be of “immaterial” cost. The voluntary recall was announced after a single report of the seatbelt assembly breaking as a front seat passenger turned to talk to backseat passengers, writes Joseph White for Reuters. The fault could mean that the seatbelt tightens incorrectly in a crash.

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Voluntary recall began following first report of fault

The fault was reported in early November but a spokesman maintains that no accidents or injuries have been caused by the problem. Model S owners have been sent an email asking them to bring their vehicles to a Tesla service center for inspection.

There are around 125 Tesla service centers around the world and technicians will inspect a bolt that joins the seat belt mechanism to the car body. The company says that 83% of owners live within 25 minutes of a service station. If necessary the company says it will send technicians to customers who live in more isolated areas.

Tesla’s unique structure means that it services cars with its own staff and stores, whereas other brands can handle recall repairs at a network of dealerships. It claims that fixing the fault will only take approximately 6 minutes.

Test at home or take Model S to Tesla service center

Drivers can test their Model S themselves by pulling on the lap part of the seatbelt using at least 80 pounds of force. Even if the test suggests that there is no fault it is still advisable to visit a Tesla service center.

“If you are concerned about the status of your seat belt prior to your scheduled inspection, you may be able to detect this condition by pulling very firmly on the lap portion of your seat belt with a force of at least 80 pounds,” the carmaker said in its email. “This procedure may detect an improperly attached seat belt but performing this procedure does not replace the need for an inspection by a Tesla technician.”

The automaker has checked 3,000 Model S cars since early November, and the incident has been reported to regulators around the globe. Although not legally required to do so Tesla is voluntarily recalling every Model S out of an “abundance of caution,” said the spokesman.

Tesla latest automaker to suffer massive recall

Only front seatbelts are affected and the Model S is the only vehicle to experience the issue. Tesla believes that the problem arose during assembly and is not the fault of a parts supplier. Although it is the largest recall in Tesla history, such massive recall programs are becoming common in the automotive industry.

Millions of General Motors were recalled worldwide after an ignition-switch fault was discovered that could cause airbag malfunction in a crash. Airbag manufacturer Takata has been involved in the recall of millions of vehicles from multiple manufacturers after its airbags were found to spray occupants with metal shards as they inflated.

Tesla itself as recalled the Model S on various occasions. In January 2014 it issued a software update designed to prevent connector adapters from overheating during charging. “The word recall is vestigial,” Musk said in an interview at the time, before adding that “remedy would be an accurate way to describe it.”

Recall not expected to affect financial performance

“This goes above and beyond what’s traditional in the industry,” the Tesla representative said. “But from Elon Musk on down it was unacceptable to Tesla.” Shares in the company were down 2.2% in midday trading in New York.

Tesla is a polarizing stock and the recall will add fuel to the fire of those who are bearish on the company. However Ben Kallo, a Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst who rates the shares neutral, said that “we stimate the cost is not material and show Tesla’s heightened focus on safety.”

“Tesla has made safety a focus in the design and development of both the Model S and Model X,” he continued. The Model S received a 5-star rating from NHTSA crash tests.

By carrying out a voluntary recall before any accidents or injuries are caused by the reported defect Tesla looks set to minimize its impact and demonstrate a superior standard of customer care. Far from damaging the company, it could find its reputation enhanced thanks to a swift and thorough response.

Other car companies could learn from Tesla’s transparency and commitment to the safety of drivers.