The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into the cause of Tesla fires due to a defect in the vehicles’ batteries. This investigation covers Model S and Model X Tesla vehicles that were manufactured between the years 2012 and 2019 and were sold in the United States.
The term “investigation” is not what the NHTSA wishes to use but rather a “defect petition.” A letter was sent to Tesla’s legal department, dated Oct. 24, 2019, where the NHTSA demanded that Tesla produce any and all documents that relate to the “high-voltage battery fires that are not related to collision or impact damage to the battery pack,” meaning incidents where the batteries unexpectedly and randomly combusted.
These requested records include all written documents, recordings or any graphics, memorandums, emails, charts, appointment books, travel reports, blueprints and all other sources of information. The NHTSA demand not only extends to Tesla but also to any contractors, consultants or other agencies who may have had some involvement with the Model S and Model X vehicles.
The NHTSA is looking to interview all past and present officers in Tesla or associated agencies or companies that were involved in the design, engineering, analysis, production, modification, testing and assembly of the battery management system in these models.
One incident involved a Model S vehicle that burst into flames in May in Hong Kong. After this reported incident, Tesla issued a software update to all Model S and Model X cars that limited the battery’s charging capacity to 80 percent. Many Tesla owners then complained that lowering the battery capacity decreased the car’s range. However, Tesla representatives insisted that this update was meant to protect the battery and improve its longevity. They did not provide more information beyond this, including any concern about the battery being defective.
In February, a Florida man lost his life after his Model S caught fire after crashing into a palm tree. After impact, the man attempted to escape the vehicle due to the vehicle’s electronic door handles not opening. Another Florida man lost his life in March after he crashed his 2018 Model S into a tractor trailer while the vehicle’s Autopilot was engaged.
This investigation follows a class action lawsuit that has been filed in the Northern District of California, specifically relating to these software updates. As a result of the lawsuit, an investigation was requested, and Tesla has until November 28, 2019 to comply with the NHTSA’s requests. If they do not comply, Tesla could face fines up to $111.6 million.
Source: ABC News