If you follow vehicle recalls and you like old sci-fi movies, you might have noticed some similarities between Tesla and a 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film. Both are aptly referred to as “Total Recall.” This time, Tesla has recalled over 40,000 vehicles due to issues that could cause a loss of power steering.
Tesla, a popular American brand of electric cars, has faced increased scrutiny from regulators after numerous safety concerns have become apparent. Some Tesla issues have grabbed headlines–like the electric cars’ batteries catching on fire or the autopilot system running passengers into other vehicles. However, the persistent background of countless recalls is just as concerning for owners.
The latest recall affects some Model S and Model X vehicles manufactured between 2017 and 2021. According to a filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the issue is related to a defect in the firmware of the latest update for the affected vehicles. Tesla’s cars are unusual in that they’re powered by advanced computers, making them capable of receiving updates over the airwaves.
While these updates can help correct issues with the cars’ software, they can also include glitches and errors that lead to things like, for instance, the loss of power steering. If that sounds dangerous and ridiculous, that’s because it is.
According to the NHTSA, the issue is present in only about 1% of the vehicles covered under this recall. “Reduced or lost power steering assist does not affect steering control, but could require greater steering effort from the driver, particularly at low speeds,” the Administration wrote in a recent press release.
Thankfully, this issue can be easily addressed with a software update–the same kind that initially caused the error. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has publicly stated that he resents the NHTSA’s use of the term “recall” to refer to each software update the company rolls out to its vehicles.
Many car reviewers and safety experts have stated that Tesla vehicles have questionable build qualities. Some allege that the company appears to cut corners in quality assurance which results in many of its vehicles having production defects. These can then reportedly be severe enough to require recalls.
From a practical standpoint, another reason for the high number of recalls is also related to the cars’ software suite requiring over-the-air updates. According to the NHTSA, these updates are legally referred to as “recalls,” so the term sticks.