Tesla has reportedly challenged a recall for almost 30,000 American-made Model X and Model S cars imported into China, disputing claims there is an issue with the vehicles' suspension and instead blaming the problem on "driver abuse".
The recall, lodged with China's State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) by Tesla Motor's Beijing arm, apparently affects Model X and S cars produced between September 17, 2013 and January 15, 2018, and imported into China.
It outlines two separate alleged suspension issues: the first could see the ball studs of the rear connecting rod of the front suspension crack in the event of a large external impact, while the second could see the the upper connecting rod of the rear suspension deformed or weakened in an accident.
The notice states Tesla will contact owners of the affected vehicles and arrange for free replacement of the affected parts.
Although the original recall claims a total of 29,193 cars are affected by either one or both of the suspension issues, Tesla has reportedly disputed this number – and the recall itself – in a legal letter obtained by Electrek.
The letter, from Tesla's counsel for regulatory affairs, Elizabeth H. Mykytiuk, to North America's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), says Tesla has not determined a defect in the cars, but was unable to officially dispute the recall without facing heavy administration work.
"Due to the opinion of SAMR/DPAC that the topic required a recall in the China market, Tesla was left with the choice of either voluntarily recalling the subject vehicles or carrying a heavy burden through the Chinese administrative process," the letter reads.
"While Tesla disagrees with the opinion of SAMR/DPAC, the Company has decided not to dispute a recall for the China market only."
Instead, Tesla said the issue was caused by "driver abuse" rather than a production defect.
"Tesla has not determined that a defect exists in either the Front Suspension Aft Link or the Rear Suspension Upper Link and believes the root cause of the issue is driver abuse, including that driver usage and expectation for damageability is uniquely severe in the China market," the letter states.
"If the customer inputs an abuse load (e.g., curb impact, severe pothole strike, etc.), then the parts may be damaged, leading either to immediate failure or delayed failure from the compounding effects of the initial abuse and subsequent load input."
The electric carmaker said the occurrence of this component failure was "exceedingly rare", although it conceded it was higher in China than other parts of the world – with approximately 0.1 per cent of cars in China affected, compared with less than 0.05 per cent elsewhere.
Still, Tesla said it would allow the voluntary recall to proceed, determining the recall population to be a total of 18,182 Model X and Model S cars manufactured in the United States but registered in China.
"After discussion with representatives of China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) and Defective Product Administrative Center (DPAC), who opined that a recall of the Front Suspension AftLink and Rear Suspension Upper Link was required under local regulations, Tesla, Inc. made the determination to conduct a voluntary recall in China," the letter said.
The recall is China-only, with Tesla explaining it is "not conducting a recall outside of China based upon the Company’s determination that there is no defect in the subject components and no associated safety-risk".