Tesla Model X crossovers recalled for seat safety problems

Tesla Motors will recall 2,700 Model X electric crossover utility vehicles to replace seat backs in the third row after a recliner unexpectedly slipped during seat-strength tests in Europe.

Denis Balibouse/Reuters/File
The new Tesla Model X P90D is pictured at the 86th International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, in March.

Tesla Motors will recall 2,700 Model X electric crossover utility vehicles to replace seat backs in the third row after a recliner unexpectedly slipped during seat-strength tests.

The vehicles in question were built prior to March 26, and are all located in the U.S.

Tesla said in a letter e-mailed yesterday to owners that it discovered the recliner issue while conducting safety tests prior to starting Model X deliveries in Europe.

The company will have its Service Centers replace the third-row seat backs, a task that will take about two hours. The company expects to manufacture the necessary parts within five weeks.

Until then, it wrote, it asks that owners "temporarily not have anyone sit in the third row seats while the car is in use.”

Tesla said the costs of the recall will be the responsibility of Futuris SA, which manufactures the third-row seats, according to a Bloomberg report.

No issues with the seats have been reported in real-world use, the company told reporters in a conference call yesterday afternoon.

It is recalling the seats "out of an abundance of caution for our customers,” said Tesla’s president of sales and service Jon McNeil.

The electric luxury SUV passed 15 separate seat-strength tests without any problems, according to Tesla, but a more stringent 16th test performed during European-market testing revealed the recliner issue.

Tesla has had two previous seat safety recalls.

In December 2013, it recalled about 1,300 Model S electric sedans to fix a potentially weakened left-rear seat attachment striker bracket stemming from factory adjustments to the alignment of aluminum stampings that make up the car's body side.

Then, last November, it recalled 90,000 Model Ses to check the strength of their seat belts after it discovered a single car in Europe with a "front seat belt that was not properly connected to the outboard lap pretensioner,” it told its customers.

None of the three problems led to any incidents or accidents in on-road use of any Tesla electric cars, and industry analysts generally credit the Silicon Valley maker for being aggressively proactive in its recall strategy.

But the recalls highlight the challenges of ensuring the highest quality in supplied parts and vehicle assembly in any modern automobile that must comply with the thousands of specific—and often conflicting—requirements of dozens of different regulatory regimes around the world.

Consumer Reports magazine said last October that it could no longer recommend the Model S because the car's predicted reliability was below average.

Tesla owner forums also include many complaints about the fit and function of the "falcon doors" on early Model X vehicles.

CEO Elon Musk has admitted that the Model X was over-ambitious and that, in retrospect, the company might not have made it quite so complex.

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