Tesla CEO: The Word “Recall” Doesn’t Make Sense If Owners Don’t Have To Bring Their Cars In (video)

JAN 15 2014 BY JAY COLE 25

Elon Musk took to the airwaves to talk about all things Tesla Motors today (video at bottom of story), and despite the company announcing a “surprise” 4th quarter sales result of about 6,900 all electric Model S sales – about 1,000 higher than previous guidance, the interview with CNBC focused mainly around a couple tweets the CEO put out on Tuesday on the NHTSA’s use of the word “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 CNBC interview by Phil LeBeau naturally leads an inquiry into Mr. Musk’s public objections to the NHSTA’s use of the word “recall” (that story and NHTSA’s documents here):

“The word recall is vestigial because in the past the only way to update the software in a car was for the car to be brought into the dealership to get surface and then have to get plugged in and updated.  But all of the Tesla vehicles have an over the air update like your cell phone or laptop.  Effectively it is a bit of a…I mean, it doesn’t makes to call it a recall in this situation, it is an over the air  update.  It is just not a word that makes sense in the 21st century for the Model S.” 

The Tesla Model S At The 2014 NAIAS (still the Detroit Auto Show to us)

The Tesla Model S At The 2014 NAIAS (still the Detroit Auto Show to us)

The Tesla CEO notes that the NHSTA should call more accurately call it for what it is, “a remedy or something other than a recall.” Mr. Musk does still allow for the word to be used when appropriate:

“I think there are cases where a recall, of course, is necessary when there’s a mechanical problem with the car and that requires the car to be brought in, but that’s simply not the case here.”

And given that Elon and the NHTSA do have some history of publically disagreeing, Mr. Musk does take a moment to clarify why he chose to make a big deal out of the word “recall.”

“I wouldn’t sort of characterize this as, you know, as being at odds with NHTSA in any significant way. We just wanted to make sure we clarified to customers that they don’t need to bring their car in.”

Other highlights in the interview:

  • Recap of Q4 results – 6,900 cars sold
  • Tesla Model S – safest car in the world
  • Tesla Motors – only automaker to have no deaths or no serious injuries in their cars
  • Best selling car in Norway for two months in the 4th quarter
  • Revenue beat of 20% in Q4 incoming
  • Target of 800 Model S cars produced per week by end of 2014

Categories: Charging, Tesla

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25 Comments on "Tesla CEO: The Word “Recall” Doesn’t Make Sense If Owners Don’t Have To Bring Their Cars In (video)"

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Hmm, food can be recalled without the people purchasing the food bringing the food back. Consumer products can be recalled without returning it to a manufacturer. The remedy is a refund or replacement item.

Elon is attempting to contort a well-known definition so that he does not have the appearance of failure. It’s simply not persuasive.

That’s your clever retort? Food is a consumable that can’t be repaired, and is thrown out when recalled.

Calling this a vehicle recall (the NHTSA literally said “recalling certain model year 2013 Model S vehicles”) is like calling a security patch for iOS or Windows a recall of the iPad or Surface. When did you last complain about MS and Apple not using the word recall?

What’s being recalled is the adapter, but Musk hasn’t objected to anything there. He just doesn’t want people to be thinking that their car needs to go back.

Consumer products were also given as an example. But you ignored that.

If a charging cable was determined to be defective on an Ipad, Apple wouldn’t requrie the Ipad to be returned either; however, they wouldn’t attempt to engage in semantics like Elon did. It still is a recall.

It is important because public may think that 22K Teslas are in line for repairs at the service centers. NHTSA has to update definitions and even develop new technologies and I’ll include battery test safety. Old technologies as ICE are covereed but what about the testing of new technologies as Hydrogen cars, NG cars??

What you say is obviously correct Taser54, but I just chauk this up as more stock price prop up and more free advertising for Musk. He’s following Steve Jobs’ playbook, which is to be expected since Jobs made $Millions by essentially selling himself, and by following the motto: “All Apple products, although they may have issues, are nontheless always perfect!”

Let’s stick with your example. If Apple recalled the charging cable, then it’s not an iPad recall. It’s a charging cable recall. And we have a specific example. Apple did a recall on ALL 1st gen iPod nano devices. You absolutely were required to send back your old iPod before receiving a replacement…but you weren’t required to send back the charging cable.

It’s not semantic, either. It’s basic literal use of English. What is being recalled? The car? No. The adapter.

When Musk says stuff there is an increasingly vocal group who just go off about it simply because it’s Musk.

Wrong recall food means trough away or returned to the store. Let put it this way, Microsoft recalled windows 8 for the update 8.1? Apple recalled IOS 7 3 times?

It seems NHTSA will need to update their terminology as technology advances.

– Recall for a product that needs to be returned to the manufacturer

– Update for a product that needs remote update from it’s manufacturer

As more vehicles offer built-in onboard wifi system/software updates, the less ‘recalls’ there will be.

I Googled “Tesla Recall” today and “Binged” it as well.

Forbes and others are misstating that 3 Teslas have caught on fire, 2
in the United States. This is completely misleading to state it as such, and
leave readers and viewers to assume the cars erupted into flames.

Same goes for CNN this morning on their Early Start show. Perhaps you guys
can look up the footage as Elon was interviewed by a CNN reporter ( looked
like Skype ). What was different about the CNN report is how all the anchors
seated on the set were chirping that Tesla had a “following, especially in California,
but at $70,000, definitely not for everybody!” Worse – the male anchor was asked
if he would buy one, wherein he joked – “At $70,000, hardly – especially when
it’s gonna catch on fire!”.

This isn’t FOX News – this is the garbage so-called “news” agencies are putting
out there to the masses.

I think someone should alert the Tesla Forum to this TV report. Perhaps
they can send it to Elon if he’s not seen it already. I mean – what a joke!

(repost from last night. I think he’s got his panties in a bunch on this one. JMO)

“Come ahn, don’t booshit me.”

Everyone knows Elon wants to go to “Mahs”.. I mean Mars 🙂

amazing, Elon is the best, Tesla is the best

Perception Management is an important part of selling and branding products. Elon is just doing his job, just as he expects everone else to do theirs. That includes due diligence to discern subtle semantic differences, using facts. Haters are gonna hate, regardless. *shrugs*

In the meantime, Tesla Motor’s stock is performing like a flawless SpaceX launch. 😉

“Consumer products can be recalled without returning it to a manufacturer. The remedy is a refund or replacement item. ”

Model S is a Consumer product. NOBODY is getting a refund. NOTHING is being RTM’d (Returned To Manufacturer).
Consumers are getting a replacement charge adapter. The Software change mitigates the thermal issue. So now consumers will have 2 charge adapters.

To you this a “Recall”?

Yes, regardless of what you or Musk think, this is legally a recall.

People will get a replacement adapter. The fact they won’t be required to ship the defective one back is irrelevant.
The old part is now illegal to sell (by anyone, not just the manufacturer), and I’m sure the letter coming with its replacement will make it clear it must not be used anymore.

So what is being “recalled,” and where is it being recalled to?

Nothing and nowhere.


Please educate yourself as to what a safety recall is.
The product being recalled in this case is Tesla’s NEMA 14-50 adapter.
Details here:

Tesla’s not the first to encounter this. Just growing pains…


Agreed IO and Taser54:

There is apparently a subtle difference between the volt and model S issues that is pointless to discuss because other than you guys, it falls on deaf ears. One is a manufacturing defect, and one is not, but people don’t want to hear it.

ON the other hand, if tables were turned…. then of course they’d want to hear it. Rather Like Al Gore’s / Ken Lay’s / Maurice Strong’s Global Warming issue. If our planet behaves incorrectly (whatever that means), people won’t hear of it.

The earth is getting cooler, but Al Gore gets to keep his $Billion in profit, since “THE EARTH HAS A FEVER!!!!!!”. I know that because Gore said it.

I would guess that the Tesla 14-50 plug might have a manufacturing defect, but the design would be good if part-to-part variation was less. Faulty receptacle wiring can also cause heat in Tesla’s 14-50 plug adapter, so it may not be a manufacturing defect. Regardless of the true cause, Tesla is addressing it with two design changes: software to cut the charging current when voltage indicates a problem, and thermal fuse added to the 14-50 plug adapter.

The Volt was a design defect, the 5-15 plug was not sturdy enough for 12 A contineous use. Faulty receptacle wiring was probably a issue as well.

I would call both designs that were not robust in real usage.


Actually GSP I don’t know where you’re getting your Volt info from but a spec grade nema 5-15 ran just tempid warm when using the first (version 2) voltec charger docking station (all AWG #16 cordsets). These things had to run 12 amp window air conditioners all day, so I really don’t know what you’re talking about.

My post was a bit tongue-in-cheek. I actually meant design defect on the Tesla adapter plug, but I didn’t want 20 howls of protest for the Tesla Uber Alis crowd.

It’s a recall on the form, so, it’s a recall. I think Mr. Musk is just doing his regular ‘get all available press’ tactic.

I think this recall is way overboard since it is only one incident. There is no way they can tell if the causality is Tesla equipment or premise equipment. The problem occurred at the interface.

Tesla’s response is precisely to get more press. The software update would have been the end of it for other manufacturers. AFTER they litigated the issue all over the place. Tesla’s tactic of replacing both software and hardware (months apart I might add) means that they maximize opportunities with the press.

Where there is smoke, there is fire. In this case, literally.

What I mean by that is there have been many cases of these things melting (and several people burning their hands).

Now the Tesla Uber Alles crowd will say this is due to the Licensed Electrician (who was hired in the vast majority of the cases) suddenly becoming incompetent when wiring only one specific outlet out of the thousands he has wired in his career. Or else they’re under some strange delusion that a Loading by a sophisticated Elon Musk inspired car (which is just a pretty plain load with 96% apparent power factor, and causes heating the same way any similiar load would) requires magical techniques that only Musk approved Tesla personnel would understand. And of course, they are more intelligent than any plain old dopey licensed electrician or inspector would be. As a licensed electrician myself, that’s just plain arrogant.

The thing that doesn’t add up in their opinion is that, out of all the outlets wired by these electricians competantly, it is by Sheer Coincidence that the recepticles got hot when a Tesla Plug was placed in them.

That Strains credulity,