Did Tesla Direct Model S Owners Not To Tell Feds About Suspension Problems?

(REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Problems are stacking up for Tesla Motors, as reports indicate the company may have forbidden Model S customers from talking to the government about problems with their cars.

Safety investigators are reviewing several reports of suspension problems in the Model S cars, a government spokesman said Thursday.

Reports of the suspension problems and allegations the company forced customers to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting them from notifying the government about defects gained traction in April on the Tesla Motors Club forum in a thread titled Suspension Problem on Model S.

A Tesla customer posted a thread in the forum describing problems with the suspension in his 2013 Model S, writing that his Tesla failed at relatively low speed and that the “left front hub assembly separated from the upper control arm.”

The customer noted days after the original comment that the company had offered to pay 50 percent of the $3,100 repair bill if they signed a “Goodwill Agreement” prohibiting them from telling anyone about the problems.

Here is the “Goodwill Agreement”:

The Goodwill is being provided to you without any admission of liability or wrongdoing or acceptance of any facts by Tesla, and shall not be treated as or considered evidence of Tesla’s liability with respect to any claim or incidents. You agree to keep confidential our provision of the Goodwill, the terms of this agreement and the incidents or claims leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill. In accepting the Goodwill, you hereby release and discharge Tesla and related persons or entities from any and all claims or damages arising out of or in any way connected with any claims or incidents leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill. You further agree that you will not commence, participate or voluntarily aid in any action at law or in equity or any legal proceeding against Tesla or related persons or entities based upon facts related to the claims or incidents leading to or related to this Goodwill.

The post from the Tesla Motors Club forum comes on the heels of a Better Business Bureau complaint filed on May 20 alleging Tesla refused to fix a customer’s defective Model X until the person signed a “hush up agreement.”

“Tesla refuses to make me whole on its repossession of the defective vehicle sold me unless I sign a hush up agreement with $150,000 penalty violation … Tesla then took back possession of the vehicle and cancelled its registration without my knowledge,” the complaint alleged.

It went on to state that the electric automaker, according to reports from the Daily Kanban, said it would not fix or re-register the customer’s vehicle unless they agreed not to talk with outside agencies about the default. “If I violate (the agreement) Tesla says I am liable for $150,000 (penalty),” the complaint added. “Vehicle was riddled with defects.” The situation has since been rectified.

The complaints eventually trickled down to safety regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said investigators are “examining the potential suspension issue on the Tesla Model S, and is seeking additional information from vehicle owners and the company.”

Federal regulators will determine whether to expand the investigation, which would eventually lead to a formal recall.

The Tesla customer in the Tesla Motors Club forum noted in subsequent posts that, “Tesla and I have come to terms,” writing later that they “can not speak as to the agreement that Tesla and I signed. I can only say that this incident was reported to NHTSA and there is an ongoing investigation.”

News of the suspension problems, as well as the possible “Goodwill Agreement,” comes after recent reports show Tesla Motors is not as environmentally friendly as once thought.

Tesla’s EVs are “not as sustainable as they may seem” — which, the firm warned, could expose Tesla and the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, to “serious brand risk and an unknown legal exposure,” according to Devonshire Research Group, an investment firm specializing in valuing and devaluing tech companies.

The March 21 report stated that everything about the Tesla — from its headlights, to its chassis, to the way it is produced — creates massive damage to the environment.

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