Potential suspension issues with Tesla's Model S aren't new news. Many issues regarding Tesla suspensions were discussed on Twitter and Reddit under the guise of Tesla vehicles having "whompy wheels" for the last few years.
In fact, suspension issues are one of the oldest ongoing critiques involving Tesla's manufacturing (before Musk shattered Cybertruck windows live on stage, before Model 3s had dirt collect in their bumper and before Model Ys saw their roofs fly off). Legacy complaints involving suspension date back years, to Tesla's original run of Model S vehicles.
And now, what the NHTSA was too blind to see, the Chinese have clearly noticed. That's why Tesla appears to have been forced into a recall of 30,000 Model S and Model X vehicles made for the Chinese market over suspension issues.
Another major issue is whether the recall could prompt a similar recall - that would likely affect over 200,000 vehicles - in the U.S.
The announcement come on Friday by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation. The government says it affected 29,193 vehicles, according to EV blog electrek:
Part of the imported Model S and Model X vehicles with a production date between September 17, 2013 and August 16, 2017 will be recalled, a total of 29,193 vehicles.
The issue surrounds "a weakness in the Model S and Model X suspension that can lead to a cracked linkage after an impact."
We used the term "forced" into the recall because it doesn't appear as though Tesla is "on board" with it. In fact, according to Bloomberg, Tesla has found "no defect with its Model S/Model X suspension and that China is basically forcing an unnecessary recall".
Despite the recall apparently being over nothing, “the Company has decided not to dispute a recall for the China market only,” the company's managing counsel wrote to the NHTSA in a letter from early September. The same letter indicates that the NHTSA has known about the Chinese recall since the beginning of September - though we're not sure why anybody would expect the NHTSA, who has sat idly by and watched one fatal wreck after another involving Teslas, to do anything about it.
In item 8 of the full letter, which you can read here, Tesla says: "Tesla has not determined that a defect exists in either the Front Suspension Aft Link or the Rear Suspension Upper Link and believes the root cause of the issue is driver abuse, including that driver usage and expectation for damageability is uniquely severe in the China market. If the customer inputs an abuse load (e.g., curb impact, severe pothole strike, etc.), then the parts may be damaged, leading either to immediate failure or delayed failure from the compounding effects of the initial abuse and subsequent load input."
Recall, as far back as 2016, we were reporting about an investigation into the suspension of Tesla vehicles. Back then the issue wasn't just the suspension themselves, but a potential coverup of the issue by Tesla:
As the website notes, "where Tesla crosses the line here is not the “crime” itself, but the coverup. If Tesla used a TSB rather than a recall to fix a safety problem, if it has an institutional bias against ordering recalls and if it uses NDAs as a matter of course to prevent owners from reporting defects, this could become the biggest auto safety scandal since the GM ignition switch affair. That’s a lot of “ifs,” but thus far the evidence indicates that these are very real possibilities. Watch this space for further developments in this troubling story."
This video described some of the early suspension issues well:
The likely issue as to why Tesla doesn't want to give ground to the Chinese recall is that it could easily prompt what would be an ugly looking U.S. recall. More than 200,000 Model S/X vehicles have been sold worldwide, mostly in the U.S, with some other sales taking place in Europe.
And one can't help but think: if the Chinese government is keen enough to spot this issue and act on it, unlike the NHTSA, how long will they be able to live with issues involving the Model 3, Model Y or (perhaps most importantly) Autopilot?