Tesla, despite resisting a previous request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is recalling 135,000 vehicles made during a seven-year span because the cars’ touch screens can potentially fail.
According to the NHTSA report, vehicles’ touch screens could fail when their memory chip is full. If a failure occurs, the vehicle’s backup cameras, defrosters and turn signals could malfunction.
The recall includes some Model S luxury sedans built between 2012 and 2018 and Model X SUVs built between 2016 and 2018.
In the previous its previous request, NHTSA said the issue could affect 159,000 vehicles.
The carmaker said it agrees to the recall but disagrees with NHTSA’s determination. The electric vehicle manufacturer reported it was not feasible for “such components to last the vehicle’s entire useful life.”
Tesla recall need could take five years of ownership
The NHTSA said the touch screen issue could take more than five years of vehicle use to begin malfunctioning and that Tesla’s wireless updates have not resolved the issue.
Under the recall, which will begin on March 30, Tesla must notify owners of cars with failure-prone touch screens and replace the computer chip that controls the screen.
The NHTSA said it considers the problem a safety issue because drivers could lose the display for the car’s backup camera and controls for the window defroster and defogger.
“We note that your report states that Tesla believes that this matter does not have a safety risk,” read a letter written to Tesla and signed by Alex Ansley, chief of NHTSA’s Recall Management Division. “In our view, this statement has no force or effect in terms of Tesla’s obligation to undertake and complete the recall, and NHTSA does not agree with it.”
The carmaker has been charging customers to upgrade or replace the screens. Costs of official recall repairs are supposed to be absorbed by the vehicle manufacturer.
Tesla said in its letter to NHTSA that it will make the recall repairs for free and will offer a discount on upgraded screen hardware.
The manufacturer is also required to regularly report to NHTSA on its progress in repairing all 135,000 touchscreens. Automakers face fines for not repairing recalled vehicles quickly enough.
Guidehouse Insights, a technology research firm, told the Wall Street Journal the recall could cost between $200-250 million.