This week, Tesla finally gave in to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s request to recall its Model S sedans and Model X SUVs due to flash memory failures that will cause the 17-inch portrait-oriented center touchscreens to fail. cars after a certain length. time – but not without pushing back the very definition of the word “defect,” according to a letter from Tesla’s legal department released today.
Speaking to federal regulators, Tesla Vice President of Legal Al Prescott argued that the touchscreen failures were not a defect worthy of a recall, as the parts were only expected to last five. at six years old in the first place, which is certainly a novel. strategy.
Prescott explained that the eMMC flash memory device that caused the problems was only rated for a number of cycles that they believed would last the life of the component:
“[The eMMC flash memory] is inherently subject to wear, has a finite life (as recognized by NHTSA itself) and may require replacement during the useful life of the vehicle … although the rate of wear is strongly influenced by active use of the central display system, even more So when the vehicle is running or charging, considering a reasonable average daily use of 1.4 cycles, the expected life would be 5 to 6 years. NHTSA has presented no evidence to suggest that this expected life is outside of industry standards. “
Further, Prescott argued that NHTSA was wrong in asserting that the touchscreen “should last at least the useful life of the vehicle, which is essentially double its expected life.” The fact that the average age of vehicles on American roads reached a record high of 11.6 years in 2020, for CNBC.
He went on to call the eMMC “state of the art” for the time it was designed and asserted that NHTSA’s regulations regarding defective parts were “anachronistic”, further pushing back the expectations of the NHTSA in terms of service life:
“[E]Electronic components are becoming more and more complex while, at the same time, the expected useful life of vehicles has increased considerably. It is economically, if not technologically, impossible to expect that these components can or should be designed to last the useful life of the vehicle. ”
While Prescott’s letter informed NHTSA that Tesla would be proceeding with a voluntary recall, it also made it clear that the automaker was not happy with it.
The fact that flash memory was only designed to withstand half the life of an average vehicle on the road raises many questions about new vehicle technology and expected obsolescence. If this were to last only five or six years, what could happen on the roads sooner than expected?
As the Washington post Note, the way Teslas ‘high-tech components wear out could have disastrous consequences for the vehicles’ resale value. Unless there is a way to recycle and reuse these disposable components, their disposable nature could also leave a bad taste in the mouths of environmentally conscious consumers.
Also, why should consumers be expected to think that an internal component needed to access key car safety features should be a wear item? While Tesla has since added alerts that warn owners of a pending eMMC failure, a processor built into a car’s internal components isn’t something you can easily check like a set of brake pads or of tires, nor something that most consumers do. knowing how to be careful after so many kilometers of use.
The recall includes 134,951 Model S and Model X cars, making it Tesla’s largest recall to date. It includes Model S sedans from 2012 to 2018 as well as Model X crossovers from 2016 to 2018. That’s less than the 158,000 cars requested by NHTSA as a reminder, as Tesla has excluded vehicles that have already had upgrades. memory or touchscreen replacements, reports the Washington post.
Failures of the recalled memory chips weren’t the only issues that plagued Model S and X touchscreens. Tesla CEO Elon Musk once bragged about buying the then-groundbreaking 17-inch displays outside. from the usual automotive supply chain to reduce costs. Unfortunately, screens weren’t built to withstand the vibration loads and temperature fluctuations found inside a car, causing them to prematurely yellow, bubble, and even leak.
You can read Prescott’s full letter to the NHTSA here.
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