Tesla is recalling 135,000 Tesla Model S sedans and Model X SUVs because their large center touchscreens can fail. Tesla had previously objected to a push to issue a recall from regulators, as it claimed that the problem wasn’t a safety issue.
The recall applies to some 2012 through 2018 Model S and 2016 through 2018 Model X vehicles.
Under the recall, which will begin on March 30, Tesla must notify owners of cars with the failure-prone touchscreens and replace a computer chip that controls the screen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers this a safety issue because without a functioning center screen, drivers lose the display for the car’s backup camera and controls for the window defroster and defogger.
Even in its correspondence with NHTSA agreeing to the recall, Tesla noted that it was aware of no crashes related to the problem and said the vehicles could still be safely operated without the screen.
But in its official letter to Tesla demanding the recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discounted Tesla’s arguments.
“We note that your report states that Tesla believes that this matter does not have a safety risk,” read the letter, signed by Alex Ansley, chief of NHTSA’s Recall Management Division. “In our view, this statement has no force or effect in terms of Tesla’s obligation to undertake and complete the recall, and NHTSA does not agree with it.”
Thus far, Tesla has been charging customers to upgrade or replace the screens, but the costs of official recall repairs are supposed to be absorbed by the vehicle manufacturer. Tesla said in its letter to NHTSA that it will make the recall repairs for free and will offer a discount on upgraded screen hardware.
Tesla is also required to regularly report to NHTSA on its progress in repairing all 135,000 touchscreens. Automakers face fines for not repairing recalled vehicles quickly enough.