U.S. to review petition seeking formal defect probe into 500,000 Tesla vehicles

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FILE PHOTO: A Tesla Model S steering wheel is on display at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Friday it will review a petition asking the agency to formally investigate 500,000 Tesla Inc models over sudden unintended acceleration reports.

The petition covers 2012 through 2019 model year Tesla Model S, 2016 through 2019 Tesla Model X, and 2018 through 2019 Tesla Model 3 vehicles, the agency said. The petition cites “127 consumer complaints to NHTSA involving 123 unique vehicles. The reports include 110 crashes and 52 injuries,” the agency added. Tesla did not immediately comment Friday.

In October, the agency said it was reviewing whether Tesla should have recalled 2,000 of its electric cars in May instead of issuing a software upgrade to fix a potential defect that could have resulted in battery fires in Model S and Model X vehicles from the 2012-2019 model years.

The 2,000 vehicles covered by the petition to the NHTSA received a battery management software upgrade in May in response to a potential flaw that could trigger non-crash-related fires. The petition was filed Sept. 17 by the offices of California lawyer Edward C. Chen on behalf of Tesla owners.

Chen told Reuters in October that he strongly believes “and various reliable sources have indicated that this number is much larger than 2,000.” The petition review is still pending.

Last week, NHTSA said it was launching an investigation into the Dec. 29 crash of a Tesla Model 3 that left a passenger dead after the vehicle collided with a parked fire truck in Indiana.

The crash is the 14th involving Tesla that NHTSA’s special crash investigation program has taken up in which it suspects the company’s so-called Autopilot or other advanced driver assistance system was in use.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama



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