Tesla recalls 53,000 cars to replace faulty parking brakes, but safety said to be unaffected

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 9:53am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 April, 2017, 2:28pm

Tesla recalled nearly two-thirds of the vehicles it made last year to replace faulty electronic parking brakes that may not release properly, marking its second-largest recall to date.

About 53,000 Model S and Model X vehicles assembled between February and October last year contain a small gear that could have been manufactured improperly by a Tesla supplier, according to a statement on the electric-car maker’s website. If that gear were to break, the parking brake could become stuck in place, the automaker said. The worldwide recall is voluntary, because safety is said to be unaffected.

“While less than 5 per cent of the vehicles being recalled may be affected by this issue, we are recalling 53,000 vehicles total out of an abundance of caution,” Tesla said. “Because of the design of the gear, it is difficult to tell exactly which vehicles are affected.”

A spokesman at Tesla Hong Kong said the recall was a “proactive measure”, and there was no single accident or injury relating to it in Hong Kong so far.

He said it had received enquiries from car owners in Hong Kong but it currently did not have figure about how many of them were affected.

Locky Law, an owner of Tesla Model S 60kWh, said the glitch with the batch’s electric parking brakes was only a minor one, as few drivers in the city would actually use that function.

“I only use E brakes maybe like once a year. Using normal parking brakes is much quicker and easier,” he said. His car, delivered in 2014, does not belong to the batch with possible problems.

“My E brakes are fine as I have tested them,” he added.

The recall covers about 63 per cent of the roughly 84,000 vehicles Tesla manufactured in 2016. Automakers recalled more than 53 million vehicles in the US last year, the third-straight year of record vehicle callbacks.

The recall comes at a time when Tesla is under scrutiny like never before as Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk prepares for a dramatic expansion in manufacturing scale to support the Model 3, its most affordable car yet. The highly-anticipated vehicle is set to begin rolling off Tesla’s Fremont, California, assembly lines in July and has helped fuel a surge in the company’s valuation to rival the likes of Ford and General Motors. The company plans to make half a million vehicles in 2018 and then 1 million in 2020.

The faulty part was supplied by a unit of Italy’s Brembo, a spokeswoman for Brembo North America Inc confirmed in an emailed statement.

“We are working with Tesla to ensure the issue is resolved quickly,” she said.

Tesla said it hasn’t seen “a single accident or injury” relating to the brake issue, and there have been no reports of the system failing to hold a parked vehicle or stop a vehicle in an emergency. Only a “very small percentage” of gears were manufactured improperly, the company said.

Tesla said repairs can begin immediately and it will have enough parts for all affected vehicles by October. It estimates the repair can be completed in 45 minutes.

Tesla shares fell 1 per cent to settle at US$302.51 in New York following the recall disclosure.

In November 2015, Tesla recalled 90,000 Model S cars because of a single report of a seat belt not being properly connected.

Tesla lacks a traditional network of franchised dealerships that handle both sales and service, including recall repairs. The company services customer vehicles instead through a network of around 135 service centres and with mobile technicians who repair customer cars at their homes or workplaces.

“Service capacity will not be an issue,” a Tesla spokeswoman said in an email, noting that the mobile technicians will be able to handle the repair.