Tesla's Latest Recall Is the Strongest Proof of the "Deliver Now, Fix Later" Policy

Elon Musk is famous for trying to make things differently, as he did with SpaceX’s reusable rockets. Regarding Tesla, automotive executives often refer to the EV maker’s strategies as cutting corners. Philippe Chain said that, when he was Tesla’s vice president for quality, Musk told him he would not wait for tests to sell the Model S. That is the origin of the expression “deliver now, fix later,” which seems to be a principle for the EV maker. Tesla’s latest recall proves that was not just a story.
Tesla sold five prototypes with experimental ankle catcher and had to recall them as if they were production vehicles 11 photos
Photo: Tesla/NHTSA/edited by autoevolution
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The Part 573 Safety Recall Report 22V-526 is apparently irrelevant, involving only five Tesla Model S units made from April 15 until April 16, 2022. However, it is the chronology of this defect that confirms that Tesla still works as Chain described before the Model S was introduced: it builds, sells, and eventually tests.

According to the document, Tesla produced “a small number of vehicles” with a new front bumper carrier structure, which the EV maker prefers to name “ankle catcher.” The company did not disclose precisely how many cars it made with the new component and used in its tests: we only know about five of them because of the way this episode develops.

From June 3 up to July 5, Tesla performed CAE simulation assessments to verify how this new component would affect the Model S’s ability to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs), particularly those involving crash situations and airbag performance. CAE simulations do not need prototypes, so Tesla could have run these computer tests way before building the vehicles with the new "ankle catcher."

On July 5, the CAE simulations did not present conclusive results in 16-mph full frontal load crashes with the new component. That led Tesla to perform a physical crash test on July 14. The further evaluation showed that the ankle catcher would cause a non-conformance with FMVSS 208, Section 23. This rule talks about how an airbag should behave with unbelted passengers who are out of position.

Legacy automakers would correct the new component, run the CAE simulations again and crash test vehicles with the new part to ensure it behaved as the simulations showed. That’s how they try to prevent liabilities and safety risks. In Tesla’s case, it “learned that a small number of vehicles with the new ankle catcher were delivered to customers.” That’s a funny choice of words: the EV maker sold at least five cars that should be destined for testing, not regular buyers.

The least we can say about this episode is that Tesla lacks adequate control instruments as much as it lacks quality control. That suggests other experimental vehicles may be in the hands of customers who are not aware their cars came with engineering samples. In April, we told our readers how Tesla was using modem engineering samples to deliver production vehicles. That makes us wonder if Tesla even tested a Model S with the experimental ankle catcher or just a regular one.

The EV maker said it has not learned about any issues, injuries, or deaths related to the problem. Although that is important, it is not the most crucial part of this news. What it really exposes and documents is that the EV maker is not a big fan of testing and not afraid of the legal implications that it can have. That may put Tesla in really hot water – if it has not already done so.

When a company has customers willing to do the testing for it, as FSD users currently do, that comes as no surprise. The deal is that critical safety products such as automobiles should not depend on the buyers’ goodwill to be tested: the automaker must ensure they are safe for everyone, including those who are not inside them. In this situation, it also needs to know if it is selling prototypes or production cars. With Chain’s story and the Part 573 Safety Recall Report 22V-526, it seems that this makes no difference for Tesla.
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 Download: Part 573 Safety Recall Report 22V-526 (PDF)

About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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