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Tesla Insults Entire Chinese Market to Avoid US (and Possible Worldwide) Recall

Tesla's situation with its recall for Model S and Model X suspension issues in China is developing quickly, and not exactly in the direction you might have expected.
Tesla Model S and Model Y suspension recall in China (October 2020)Tesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model S
At ground level, things appear to be pretty straightforward. Following several cases of suspension failures for the vehicles mentioned above, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) and Defective Product Administrative Center (DPAC) decided the situation was severe enough to warrant a recall.

Tesla didn't seem to disagree, therefore all Model S and Model X built between September 17, 2013 and March 31, 2016 sold in China now make the subject of the recall. According to Tesla, that would be 18,182 vehicles in total (9,436 Model X SUVs and 8,746 Model S sedans).

As you would expect, the NHTSA started asking some questions. If Chinese authorities request a recall, should the same thing happen in the U.S. as well? After all, the very same vehicles roam around on American roads with the very same suspension system their Chinese counterparts have, so it's an entitled concern.

With over 18k vehicles involved, Tesla's Chinese recall is massive for a company this size, but it's nothing compared to what would happen if the U.S. market were also affected. It would be a terrible blow both for the EV maker's finances (Tesla covers all expenses in China) and its public perception. Not to mention that it would clog its service centers even further, and we all know how difficult it is to get an appointment with those in some parts of the country.

Elizabeth H. Mykytiuk, Tesla’s managing counsel for regulatory affairs, answered NHTSA's enquiry in a letter dated September 3rd that only just recently surfaced. In it, the Tesla official argues that there is nothing wrong with the vehicles themselves, and that the company "believes the root cause of the issue is driver abuse". Come again?

Yes, without the existence of a PR department where communication specialists ply their trade, Tesla actually issued an official document suggesting that a). Chinese roads are a marginal improvement over a rocky mountain pass and b). Chinese drivers - and there's no other way to put it - have rather poor skills. Well, at least those who drive a Tesla.

The world is full of politically over-correctness and we don't think that should be encouraged in any way. However, making such a broad statement about an entire market is not the kind of communication you would expect from a company - let alone one that intends to keep selling its products on said market.

Furthermore, if Mykytiuk's explanation - who, we assume, speaks on behalf of the entire company - were true, shouldn't all other carmakers who sell their products in China be faced with similar problems? And if that were the case, shouldn't Tesla have known that from the start and beef up the suspension on its China-bound vehicles?

The truth is Tesla is no stranger to similar issues right here on US soil. Back in 2016, the NHTSA investigate the Palo Alto-based carmaker for faulty ball joints, and sporadic cases of severe damage to the suspension system have been surfacing ever since. However, a recall was never decided, and we will soon see whether that will remain the case this time around too.

The shocking thing here has nothing to do with any mechanical faults that may or may not exist, but Tesla's explanation for its situation in China as it blames the poor local infrastructure (a bit offensive but ultimately plausible, even though the U.S. is no stranger to bad road surfaces) and the skills of the drivers (some may consider that a bit stereotypical, and they wouldn't be wrong).


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