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Tesla Model X recall highlights risk of massive Model 3 rollout

Tesla Model X Recall

Tesla earlier today issued a recall for the Model X, the company’s well-received crossover SUV based on the Model S platform. The reason for the recall lies in a design flaw affecting the vehicle’s third row of seats. Specifically, a faulty locking hinge on the last row of seats could potentially cause the seats to collapse forward during a crash.

While there have been no reported incidents to date, Tesla obviously wants to get ahead of the problem as early as possible.

“Despite [15] prior successful tests and no reports of a third row seat slipping in any customer vehicles,” Tesla said in an email to affected owners, “we have decided to conduct a voluntary recall as a precautionary measure and will be replacing all affected third row seat backs.”

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Lucky for Tesla, the scope of the recall is rather narrow as the company to date has only shipped 2,700 Model Xs. Additionally, the supplier responsible for the faulty part will reportedly handle all expenses involved in getting the hinge replaced.

Until affected owners get the locking hinge replaced, Tesla advises drivers not to use the third row of sets in the interest of safety.

An inconvenience to be sure, but hardly a major news story in and of itself. In this particular instance, Tesla’s slow production on the Model X actually turned out to be a good thing insofar as they were able to catch the problem with a relatively small number of affected cars on the road.

With the Model 3, however, Tesla won’t be afforded the same luxury, which is to say their margin for error will be much smaller and the market much less forgiving. The current number of Model 3 reservations is absolutely staggering and Tesla will have no choice but to get as many Model 3s manufactured and out on the road as soon as humanly possible. So even in a best-case scenario where the rollout of the Model 3 goes swimmingly, Tesla will need to do all it can to ensure that the Model 3s rolling off the line in late 2018 and early 2019 are flawless.

A voluntary recall affecting 2,700 vehicles is one thing, but an early recall involving the Model 3 would be both a logistical and publicity nightmare.

Tesla’s full email to Model X owners on the matter reads as follows:

We are emailing to inform you of a proactive action Tesla is taking to ensure your safety as a Model X owner. Tesla’s internally conducted crash testing demonstrates that Model X will be the first SUV to receive the highest safety rating in every category, and we are committed to ensuring that it remains the safest SUV in the world.

Recently, during an internal seat strength test that was conducted prior to the start of Model X deliveries in Europe, the recliner in a third row Model X seat unexpectedly slipped. The recliner, which is provided to us by an outside supplier, is the locking hinge that allows the third row seat back to fold forward, and if a recliner were to slip during a crash, the seat back could move forward. Similar testing was conducted before the start of deliveries in North America, with 15 confirmation tests having been conducted without a single recliner failure. Despite these prior successful tests and no reports of a third row seat slipping in any customer vehicles, we have decided to conduct a voluntary recall as a precautionary measure and will be replacing all affected third row seat backs.

Our records show that you own a Model X affected by this voluntary recall. We will shortly send you an official recall notice by mail, but we wanted to alert you to this action as soon as possible.

A fix to this issue is already in place. We have worked with our supplier to develop a new recliner design with improved quality that resolved the issue. We are now constructing new third row seat backs to match all affected vehicles. Your service center will contact you to schedule the installation of your replacement seat backs as soon as they are available. Based on current production rates, we expect all replacements to be completed on a rolling basis over the next five weeks. We will accelerate this timing if possible.

Until the recall is performed, you may make full use of your Model X, although we ask that you temporarily not have anyone sit in the third row seats while the car is in use. We recognize that not having the use of your third row seats for the next few weeks will be an inconvenience, but your safety is our primary concern. We assure you that we are building your new seat backs as fast as we can.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.