Tesla Recalls 2,700 Model X SUVS to Fix Third-Row Seats

Tesla's Model 3: Many Questions Remain
  • Customers affected by action will have seat backs replaced
  • Tesla holding supplier responsible for `manufacturing flaw'

Tesla Motors Inc. is recalling 2,700 Model X sport utility vehicles, the first such action for the SUV, to repair the third-row seats after strength tests done by the automaker found a potential problem.

“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,” Tesla said Monday in an e-mail to affected customers, all of whom are in the U.S. “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.”

The recall is just the latest problem for the Model X, which was already late coming to market because of issues with the the independently operable second-row seats and with the so-called “falcon-wing” doors that open vertically. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said that the Model X’s unique features were difficult to engineer and relied heavily on parts suppliers. Sales have missed expectations because of parts shortages stemming from, “Tesla’s hubris in adding far too much new technology” to the Model X, the company said in an April press release.

Tesla began delivering the Model X in September after several production delays and shipped 2,400 of the SUVs in the first quarter. The voluntary recall of the Model X covers vehicles that were made before March 26. The electric-vehicle maker is now constructing new third-row seat backs and expects to replace them all within five weeks.

Tesla unveiled its mass-market Model 3 sedan on March 31, and at least 325,000 pre-orders have been placed for the car, which is expected in late 2017. As Tesla gears up to build its Model 3, the company will have to have its suppliers and factory ready to make more cars than it ever has while avoiding the pitfalls it has suffered with Model X.

The company also makes the Model S sedan.

‘No Issues’

The Model X recall “is out of an abundance of caution for our customers,” Jon McNeil, Tesla’s president of sales and service, told reporters on a conference call Monday. “There have been no issues with any failures in the field.”

Tyler Frank, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., said that “it’s good for Tesla to get out ahead of this. They’ve always been proactive about recalls.”

Tesla has brought some of its seat manufacturing in-house. Futuris SA is the supplier of the Model X’s third-row seats, and Tesla said it’s holding Futuris responsible for the costs.

McNeil said that Model X production remains on track and that the voluntary recall will not affect the production rate.

In November, Tesla recalled 90,000 Model S sedans to check seat belts.

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