The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has officially started an investigation into some 50,000 Tesla Model X SUVs produced for the 2022 and 2023 model years. The probe comes after two complaints related to the front seat belts reportedly coming unconnected from the "anchor pretensioner" while the EV was in motion.
When NHTSA receives such complaints, if there's a potential safety risk involved, it may open an initial probe. According to Automotive News, neither of the two complaints noted a crash, and both impacted a newer Tesla Model X with low mileage.
As the story goes, the Tesla owners complained that their EVs were delivered with "insufficiently connected anchor linkages." The front seats in Tesla's vehicles feature outboard pre-tensioining systems that connect to the frame of the seat. If the system's connections are properly manufactured, you should only be able to disconnect them with a special tool. However, NHTSA's report states, via Automotive News:
"The two allegations indicate that the connection failure occurred at this point. In both cases, the pretensioner and the linkage were not properly connected during assembly, resulting in friction fit maintaining the connection between the two until eventual separation. The linkage and the pretensioner suddenly separated when the force exerted on the linkage overcame the resistance of the friction fit while the vehicles were in motion."
NHTSA will dive deep into potentially impacted Model X vehicles to learn whether the problem exists, how frequently it appears to be occurring, and whether or not there are potential manufacturing problems.
Once the preliminary investigation is complete, NHTSA will then determine if the case can be closed or if it should proceed to the next level. If there are adequate findings to warrant a recall due to a potential safety-related defect, the agency will send a recall request letter to Tesla.
This particular NHTSA probe comes amid many recent Tesla recalls. While a number of Tesla recalls have been taken care of via a simple and convenient over-the-air software update, that's not always the case. Clearly, if it's found to be true that the Model X's front seat belts could detach while driving, a service appointment will be necessary for the repair to be completed.
This is a developing story. After NHTSA makes its determination, we'll either update this story or provide a follow-up article.
Source: Automotive News