Former NHTSA Boss David Strickland Says Tesla’s Elon Musk is Partially Right – Model S Recall Isn’t Really a Recall


Elon Musk Tweets About The Word "Recall" As It Applies To Recent Charging Adapter Replacement

Elon Musk Tweets About The Word “Recall” As It Applies To Recent Charging Adapter Replacement

The recall that isn’t a recall.

This Tesla Adapter is The One That's Being Replaced

This Tesla Adapter is The One That’s Being Replaced

The Tesla Model S received an over-the-air software update and upgraded 14-50 charging adapters were mailed to Model S owners after a garage fire involving a charging Model S made waves in the media.

Elon Musk took to Twitter to dispute the use of the word “recall” and then went to CNBC to discuss it even more.

Musk took some heat for disputing this, but as it turns out, former NHTSA David Strickland says that Tesla’s ability to do over-the-air update is “precedent-setting” for regulators who will now likely examine the use of the word “recall” in these types of situations.

As Strickland says:

“As much as Tesla disagrees and Elon disagrees with the characterization of a recall, I would have to say he’s partially right there.  What people think of in terms of a recall is you get a letter from the manufacturer to bring your car in to the dealership.”

“Tesla is able to change vehicle dynamics and make vehicle changes from the sky.  You don’t have to impose an inconvenience on the consumer when that remedy comes in.”


It should be noted that Strickland was the head honcho at the NHTSA.  He’s now out (resigned), but we believe his words still will be considered as the NHTSA decides how to handle future over-the-air updates.

Source: Bloomberg

Categories: Tesla


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17 Comments on "Former NHTSA Boss David Strickland Says Tesla’s Elon Musk is Partially Right – Model S Recall Isn’t Really a Recall"

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Sorry, this doesn’t get old for me, since the word “recall” has cause so much fuss, it still makes me LOL.

Elon, concentrate on Space X and “get yah ahss to Mahs!”

Here’s what the original looked like.

This is not that precedent setting. Sometimes, there is a “recall” when customers are mailed a new page for their owners manual. Or a new lable to stick on their door. Or a thumb drive with a software update for SYNC.

It’s a “recall” because the vehicle needs service for safety or regulatory reasons.

I just got a recall from Microsoft about my windows 8 :-/


Is a new power cord in the mail too, with a letter explaining that the old one can’t legally be used anymore and must be discarded?

Rec all or not, I still don’t have the new adapter. “It’s in the mail”, one of the oldest lies…

Mail sometimes gets lost. Doesn’t mean anybody lied.

HAHA! Supposedly the majority of drivers in Norway had problems with their UMC’s over the recent Cold Weather Blast. Tesla people and the “Tesla Uber Alles” People are blaming the ‘non-earthed Neutral’ (when I can’t see how that could be remotely related to the issue), but that’s a more and more grasping attempt of any available reed. NO supposedly incompetent licensed electricians or inspectors this time!

The problem to date is unresolved. People on their 3rd and 4th UMC still cannot charge. The ‘by the mail’ solution is not working.

The North American UMC issue with hot adapters is completely different from the Norway UMC issue.

Also, It is easy to laugh at minor issues, but hard to accomplish what Tesla has accomplished to date.


Yes they are 2 separate issues, except both show a lack of quality and PPPPPP (Plainly Pretty Piss-Pour Prior Planning).

I’m laughing because when I’ve suggested this in the past, people said it must be the professionally installed outlet, or Inspector, but heaven’s no, it COULDN’T be TESLA!!!

Drove a model S over the weekend at the “event” in Pittsford, NY, and other than having to go through a few hours of phone calls to cancel an order for a car (!!!), it was pretty good. That Nema 14-50 adapter was designed by someone who doesn[‘t know about electricity. Just compare that Tesla Plug with a $12 male plug (14-50p) at home depot and compare surface areas. The Tesla thing has 1/10 the area, therefore 10 times the current density. \

They can’t use that tack in Norway. Just got done reading the blogs.. People are getting upset. Made front page news in Oslo. Especially when other EV’s work fine in the same town.

So when Windows Embedded in a Ford for “SYNC” needs a patch/update/upgrade of any type Ford needs to issue a “Recall”?
Have they done so if they do not have the capability to do it OTA?

Could someone please educate me about the purpose of the software update associated with this non-recall? Why was it needed and what did it do? I understand the plug adapters and the inclusion of the thermal fuse, I do not understand how the software update fits with this. Thanks!

You’ll never get a straight answer from Tesla/Musk.

My GUESS is that they never programmed any safety limits into the car to limit current draw when being charged or they were set too high. If the current draw is too high then it would melt the adapter and possibly cause a fire. Thus, the software is probably limited to a setting below that of the fuses.

This is just a presumption.

The car probably has limits, but Tesla may have “incorrectly” assumed that the car would always have a safe and proper electrical connection that could withstand the expected and normal current of charging.

However, out in the real world, poor connections (for example, due to an loose or corroded socket, or one where there is low contact for the the plug’s blades… which would be no fault of Tesla’s, and more correctly laid at the feet of the homeowner who has failed to maintain their house’s electrical system) increase the resistance across the connection. Increased resistance leads to increased heat.

My understanding is that the software update causes the Tesla Model S to monitor the voltage right before and during charging. If it sees the voltage drop quite a bit, then it (probably correctly) assumes that there is high resistance (e.g. a loose or corroded connection or too small wiring) in the wiring upstream. It then reduces the charging current (by 25%) in an attempt to prevent overheating or a fire in the upstream wiring.

Musk’s immature and childish attitude is getting old.

It’s a recall Musk buddy (I wonder how much he paid the FORMER NHTSA boss). You’re having a part replaced. Tons of things get recalled without the need for going into service as long as it’s easily user serviceable. I think Honda had a recall for missing badges. They could have easily saved money and sent them out for owners to put on themselves but owners brought their cars to the dealerships. One could argue, why isn’t a Tesla tech coming to swap out the adapter for me? Why should a Honda owner get this “premium” service and I have to do the “upgrade” myself?

While the source of the fire was never able to be confirmed, the melted adapter was confirmed by the fire department. If the wiring in the house was the issue, the adapter would not have melted, the wiring before the adapter would have melted. Just the fact that they are sending out these replacements without question means they know it is underspec’d or faulty.

vdiv and Ugh: My understanding is (since I dont have specifics) The software update lowers the current to 32 amps if the voltage drop is too high. This will cause substantially less heating at the plug, and result in hopefully, less fires. A side result is that homes with distant garages or more marginal utility distribution setups with also go into 32 amps even though there is no undue heating, but most people can probably 32 amps all the time anyway. A more sophisticated software only approach would be to have the car keep record of the gps location of the charging point, and adjust the current if the voltage drop suddenly lowers quite a bit comparing historically how much it did at this location, so that in effect, the car ‘Guesses’ that the 14-50 attachment plug’s connection finally wore out and it finally melting down. The Roadster keeps track of the charging current allowed by gps location this way so its not a new concept for Tesla. Of course, there will be plenty of false trips, such as when the air conditioner starts up, and it will also be unable to sense a problem on large service/short run to… Read more »