Tesla Recalls Model S, Model X Vehicles Following Safety Investigation

Tesla is recalling some Model S and Model X vehicles following safety concerns raised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The recall is expected to begin on March 30 and 134,951 units of the electric car could potentially be affected, according to the latest report by the NHTSA.

It comes after the federal agency made a formal request made for the recall of 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles in mid-January, following an upgraded safety investigation last November. That investigation concluded that some 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles "contain a defect related to motor vehicle safety."

The agency's latest report released on January 29 states that the embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) controller in some models can wear out, which can lead to some display function failures.

This can cause the loss of the rearview camera display and defrost/defog control settings, among other issues, "increasing the risk of a crash", the report said.

Tesla has agreed to notify owners, and provide an enhanced eMMC controller "free of charge," the report added.

Tesla confirmed the latest recall on Tuesday in an email reportedly sent to car owners affected by the recall, which was obtained by electric transportation news outlet Electrek.

The email stated: "Tesla has decided to voluntarily recall certain Model S and Model X vehicles built before March 2018 that are equipped with an 8GB embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) in the media control unit because the eMMC may malfunction due to accumulated wear. Our records show that you own a Model S or Model X affected by this recall."

The company confirmed it would upgrade affected vehicles with an enhanced 64GB eMMC without charge.

"There is no need at this time to contact us as we will notify you when the parts become available," it said. "We kindly ask that you do not schedule a service appointment unless you receive a vehicle alert signaling memory storage device degradation or are actively experiencing a persistent blank center display that does not recover after restarting the touchscreen."

For those who have already paid for upgrades, Tesla added that it will share "details about reimbursement and eligibility" by the end of March 2021.

The email to the affected car owners also highlighted that Tesla recently published a software update in a bid to address most of the functionality issues raised by the NHTSA.

However, it has warned that vehicles with operating software older than 2020.48.12 and eMMC malfunctions "may lose these functionalities."

Owners can check their current software release by trying to complete an update, and can also find help on the company's website. "If the touchscreen is unavailable," it adds "then please perform a shoulder check and use your mirrors to back up safely."

In January, NHTSA noted warned that it "tentatively believes" the Tesla software updates were "procedurally and substantively insufficient" in resolving the problem.

Last November, the NHTSA launched an investigation into a suspected front suspension issue with multiple Tesla vehicles. The agency said its Office of Defects Investigation received a 43 complaints from owners alleging failure of front suspension fore links, seemingly impacting 2016-2017 Model X's and 2015-2017 Model S's.

"The front suspension fore links may fail at the knuckle ball joint ring, which may result in contact between the tire and wheel liner," the report described at the time. The investigation was expected to involve around 115,000 vehicles.

Last October, Tesla took a cautious tone during the beta release of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) mode, warning at the time that it "may do the wrong thing at the worst time."

"[FSD] is in early limited access Beta and must be used with additional caution. It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road. Do not become complacent," the company noted at the time.

Tesla Model X SUV California 2015
A Tesla Model X Crossover SUV displayed in Fremont, California on September 29, 2015. Tesla has recalled some 2012-2018 Tesla Model S and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles following a safety investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images