Tesla is the ultimate David becomes Goliath story of the modern auto industry. When they started to transform into the new behemoth of automakers, they now find they are not immune to the same headwinds of the global auto industry. The latest Tesla recall is a great example of how the once maverick car company has now morphed into a “legacy car maker.”
China has ordered Tesla to recall 1.1 million vehicles due to an issue with the acceleration and braking systems of certain models manufactured in China and abroad.
This is the second Tesla recall in China in recent months. In March, Tesla recalled 2,649 vehicles manufactured between October 2015 and August 2020 after China’s regulator said the hoods of certain imported Model S vehicles were at risk of opening while the vehicle was operating, increasing the risk of collisions.
China is a significant market for Tesla, with revenue increasing to $18.2 billion last year from $13.8 billion in 2021. The recalls will begin on May 29, and Tesla will notify relevant car owners by mail or text. China regulators did not say how many of the recalled Teslas were imported.
The recalled vehicles include some imported Model S, Model X, and Model 3 cars, as well as Chinese-made Model 3 and Model Y vehicles that were manufactured between Jan. 12, 2019, and April 24, 2023.
The issue involves the vehicles’ regenerative braking system, which generates electricity from the car’s motion when the driver takes a foot off the accelerator. The State Administration for Market Regulation said in a statement that the cars might not provide a warning when the driver presses hard on the accelerator for a long period. The defect could lead to an increased risk of collisions. Tesla said it would fix the vehicles with an over-the-air software update on affected vehicles.
Tesla has also faced issues with U.S. regulators. In February, Tesla recalled more than 362,000 cars equipped with its Full Self Driving driver-assistance system after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found it increased the risk of accidents.
The driver-assistance system, which can steer, accelerate, brake, and change lanes on its own, allowed vehicles to travel above legal speed limits and through intersections in “an unlawful or unpredictable manner,” the agency said in documents posted on its website. It said Tesla was not aware of any deaths or injuries caused by the flaws the agency had identified.
In January, Tesla disclosed in a regulatory filing that the Justice Department had asked it for documents related to the company’s self-driving software, a potential setback for Elon Musk, the chief executive. As regulators investigate the safety of this technology, some Tesla owners have filed lawsuits on the grounds that Tesla’s self-driving software does not live up to Mr. Musk’s promises.
Electrified Mag’s Take: Back in Seattle, Washington at the dawn of the Grunge Rock era, Sub Pop Records gave away free bumper stickers declaring “Corporate Rock Sucks.” Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains were trailblazers and didn’t have to follow the norms of the ancient record industry back in the day. Fans swooned and fawned at these new idols and made fun of all the hair bands that Grunge Rock was replacing on the charts.
It didn’t take long before David Geffen, Sony Records, and Madonna swooped into Seattle and signed all the hot acts. By 1994 Kurt Cobain was dead, and Layne Staley and Chris Cornell succumbed under the pressure of stardom years later. It turns out that being a rock star is lonely, hard work. Fast forward to today and when I click on a generic classic rock list on my Amazon Music account, Grunge is considered classic rock now and was peppered in a playlist with Billy Squier, Bon Jovi, and Guns and Roses.
Tesla is the Grunge rock car company of today. With Elon Musk as its fearless leader, Tesla (and its legions of fawning fans around the world) thought they would be immune to the trouble that the legacy auto has endured for years. We’ve all heard excited Tesla fans say all takes to turn the automotive world on its ear is some CAD/CAM software, an iPhone, and an internet connection. They told us that technology can easily trump 100 years of manufacturing experience, meeting government regulations, and selling and servicing millions of cars and trucks.
When stardom engulfed the Grunge Rock scene, all those bands transformed into what they feared most, stuffy corporate rock acts. They found out that the trappings, bad luck, and potholes of being a pop act, whether Nirvana or Motley Crue, were the same.
Commensurately, hipster Tesla is now a legacy carmaker with all the pitfalls that come with it. Turns out that building cars is very, very difficult and Elon would be the first to confirm that. Remember the “production hell” that preceded the Model 3 launch? All the software and new-age thinking didn’t absolve them from the hard cold reality of manufacturing and servicing millions of cars.
So whatever analogy we use here, Tesla is now a legacy auto with everything that comes with it, including lawsuits, deaths, fires, recalls, and government scrutiny and regulations. Yet they still have a shroud of invincibility thanks to frothy fans and guys like Sandy Munro, for now.
Remarkably, this recall will be forgiven, become a soundbite on the news and then disappear. As Tesla grows and becomes an even more entrenched automaker, it will soon forfeit the “Get out of jail free card” and have to face the horde like every other car company in the world.