With Model S Defect, Tesla Offers a Masterclass In How To Do Auto Recalls Right

Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company Tesla Motors has endeavored to create a reputation for safety. In the past few years, the auto industry has seen the largest auto recalls in history, which involved numerous fatalities and high-profile cover ups.

In November, Tesla Motors announced a voluntary recall for almost 90,000 Model S electric vehicles over a tiny defect, a faulty front seat belt. Yet unlike other recent safety recalls, Tesla issued the recall before any crashes or injuries were reported.

In fact, so far the company has only found one defective vehicle. The recall announcement stressed that the seat belt issue has caused no accidents or injuries whatsoever, and that the recall was merely a precaution.

When Tesla released its new Model S earlier this year, it scored so highly with auto experts that Consumer Reports was forced to change its entire rating system to accommodate Tesla’s new high score. Plus, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Model S its highest possible safety rating, the only car to achieve full marks for safety since 2013.

In short, the company discovered that overheating during electric charging could damage the front seat belt, which would fail to provide “full protection” in the event of a crash. The company will fix affected vehicles with wireless software upgrades, new charging adapters, and new thermal fuses.

Thermal cutoff fuses are one-shot electrical safety devices that interrupt electrical flow when temperatures exceed a pre-set cutoff limit. Thermal fuses are also at the center of another product recall in the U.K. with auto manufacturer Vauxhall.

Drivers of the Zafira model cars are continuing to drive the vehicle after the thermal fuse in the car’s heating and ventilation system has been activated.

So far, 200 such car fires have occurred resulting from faulty thermal fuses in the Zafira model. One incident was caught on film as the driver, a former pop star from the U.K., made a narrow escape as his car was engulfed in flames.

“Our investigations so far have found that a number of incidents have occurred due to improper repair of the blower motor resistor and its thermal fuse, the item that protects the blower motor in event of a fault in or failure of the motor,” a spokesperson for Vauxhall said in a statement. “Should the thermal fuse within the resistor fail, the resistor assembly should always be discarded, never repaired.”

The company is issuing a recall to replace all the spent blower motors with new parts.

“Vauxhall is writing to all affected Zafira owners to invite them for a free inspection of their vehicle’s heating and ventilation system and replace any parts necessary at no cost to the customer returning their vehicle to a safe operating condition,” the company said in a statement.

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