Tesla is recalling almost as many vehicles as it delivered last year

Image: Reuters/Stephen Lam
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Tesla is recalling more than 475,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in the US over safety issues with the rearview camera and trunk, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Dec. 30.

The recall includes 356,309 Tesla Model 3 vehicles manufactured between 2017 and 2020, as well as 119,009 Model S cars manufactured after 2014. The total is nearly equivalent to the 500,000 EVs Tesla delivered globally in 2020.

The world’s most valuable automaker, Tesla has faced scrutiny in recent months from both the NHTSA and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over vehicle safety.

Why Tesla’s Model 3 and Model S cars are being recalled

The Model 3 recall concerns a cable that provides the camera feed allowing drivers to see their rearview, according to a NHTSA report (pdf). The agency said repeated opening and closing of the trunk lid may “cause excessive wear” to the cable over time, causing the rearview camera feed to go out. Loss of this camera display “may affect the driver’s rear view and increase the risk of a collision,” the NHTSA said. Since 2018, new US cars have been required by federal law to have backup cameras.

Model S vehicles are being recalled over a faulty latch (pdf) on the front trunk that may cause the hood of the car to pop open unexpectedly, in turn “obstructing the driver’s view and increasing the risk of a crash.”

Tesla Service will inspect any vehicles affected by these recalls and fix them free of charge, the NHTSA said. The automaker’s stock was down more than 2% on news of the recalls this morning.

Tesla faces scrutiny over vehicle safety

2021 been a whirlwind year for Tesla, which hit a trillion-dollar market cap even as it battled harassment allegations and safety concerns about its vehicles.

The company recalled 7,600 US vehicles in November over concerns that their air bag cushions may tear when deployed. The SEC said on Dec. 6 that it was investigating the EV maker after a whistleblower complaint by a former employee, who alleged Tesla didn’t properly inform shareholders and customers of fire risks associated with its solar panels. Following a separate probe by the NHTSA into Tesla vehicles’ “passenger play” feature—which offers games such as Solitaire on a touch screen—the company said on Dec. 23 that it would lock the feature to ensure drivers couldn’t play video games while behind the wheel.

CEO Elon Musk sold off another $1 billion in Tesla shares just before news of the recalls was announced. The entrepreneur has been offloading stock since November, likely to bring down a looming tax bill.