Did Tesla Try to Cover up a Safety Defect in the Model S?

One Tesla Model S owner is claiming that the American automaker used a “Goodwill Agreement” to cover up a potential flaw in one of the sedan’s suspension components.

Reuters is reporting that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) spokesperson Bryan Thomas has confirmed that the agency is “examining the potential suspension issue on the Model S, and is seeking additional information from vehicle owners and the company.”

The issue began when a Model S owner that goes under the name gpcordaro on the Tesla Motors Club forum reported that he had a suspension problem on his car. According to gpcordaro, his car had 73,000 miles on the odometer when the left front hub assembly separated from the upper control arm. After having his Model S towed to a Tesla service center, the automaker informed him that it would not be covered under warranty, saying that the cause was due to normal wear and tear.

It appears that after a bit of back-and-forth with Tesla, the vehicle owner was able to get his Model S repaired with Tesla covering half of the $3,100 bill but required him to sign a “Goodwill Agreement” that required him to stay quiet about the issue.

“The Goodwill [the parts, services or other compensation] is being provided to you without any admission of liability or wrongdoing or acceptance of any facts by Tesla, and shall not be treated as or considered evidence of Tesla’s liability with respect to any claim or incidents,” reads the agreement that Tesla had its customer sign.

“You agree to keep confidential our provision of the Goodwill, the terms of this agreement and the incidents or claims leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill. In accepting the Goodwill, you hereby release and discharge Tesla and related persons or entities from any and all claims or damages arising out of or in any way connected with any claims or incidents leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill.”

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NHTSA is now investigating the issue to see how widespread these goodwill agreements were and to find out if they prevented safety defect from being reported to the agency. “Part of what we have to figure out is whether or not (non disclosure agreements) might have impeded people making (complaints),” said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. “Our folks were on this right away.”

Tesla has released a blog post which strongly denies the claims. “There is no safety defect with the suspensions in either the Model S or Model X,” reads the post from Tesla. The company claims that the customer in question with the failed ball joint experienced a “very unusual use case” as he lived on a long dirt road. Tesla goes on to say that they have cooperated fully with NHTSA, and that the agency hasn’t technically opened any formal investigation.

Tesla also tried to discredit the author of the blog post that brought this issue to light, Edward Niedermeyer, by suggesting an anti-Tesla bias, saying that, “it is probably wise to take Mr. Niedermayer’s (sic) words with at least a small grain of salt.”

[Source:  Daily Kanban via Reuters]

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