Even Tesla detractors would have to concede that the company isn’t afraid to be painfully honest about its mistakes, no matter how bad the resulting PR might be. Whether it’s Elon Musk admitting that the Model X design was too ambitious or the company issuing a voluntary recall for the Model S this past November, Tesla has always been upfront and honest about its missteps.
That said, a strange story about Tesla began to gain traction in the mainstream press late this week. According to a report from Reuters, the U.S. National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently began probing reports about worrisome suspension issues on the Tesla Model S that could result in drivers losing control while driving. What’s more, the report claims that Tesla may have gone so far as to force a Tesla owner with suspension problems to sign an NDA in exchange for repairs. In other words, Tesla was allegedly willing to fix the problem so long as the owner agreed not to contact the government of the NHTSA about it.
Needless to say, if the above story had even a grain of truth to it, it would represent a worrisome and troublesome development for the electric automaker.
“Part of what we have to figure out is whether or not (non disclosure agreements) might have impeded people making (complaints),” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said.
Responding quickly, Tesla published a blogpost on the matter earlier this morning where they unequivocally deny all of the allegations levied against them.
Not only does Tesla deny that the Model S has any sort of issues related to its suspension, they add that the NHTSA is not currently investigating anything of particular import.
Second, NHTSA has not opened any investigation nor has it even started a “preliminary evaluation,” which is the lowest form of formal investigatory work that it does. On April 20th, as part of what it has told us it considers “routine screening,” NHTSA informally asked us to provide information about our suspensions. On April 30th, we provided all relevant information to NHTSA. NHTSA has since told us that we have cooperated fully and that no further information is needed. Neither before nor after this information was provided has NHTSA identified any safety issue with Tesla’s suspensions. This can be confirmed with NHTSA.
And as for the allegation that Tesla asked a customer to sign an NDA, Tesla didn’t mince words, calling the very idea “preposterous” while adding that it’s something Tesla has never done nor would ever do.
When our customers tell us something went wrong with their car, we often cover it even if we find that the problem was not caused by the car and that we therefore have no obligations under the warranty. In these situations, we discount or conduct the repair for free, because we believe in putting our customers’ happiness ahead of our own bottom line. When this happens, we sometimes ask our customers to sign a “Goodwill Agreement.” The basic point is to ensure that Tesla doesn’t do a good deed, only to have that used against us in court for further gain. These situations are very rare, but have sometimes occurred in the past. We will take a look at this situation and will work with NHTSA to see if we can handle it differently, but one thing is clear: this agreement never even comes close to mentioning NHTSA or the government and it has nothing to do with trying to stop someone from communicating with NHTSA or the government about our cars. We have absolutely no desire to do something like that. It is deeply ironic that the only customer who apparently believes that this document prevents him from talking to NHTSA is also the same one who talked to NHTSA. If our agreement was meant to prevent that, it obviously wasn’t very good.
Tesla’s full response, aptly titled A Grain of Salt, can be read in full via the source link below.