Elon Musk vs. the NHTSA: The battle that Tesla doesn't want

Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer thinks Tesla Motors (TSLA -0.1%) CEO Elon Musk made a rookie mistake by rankling the NHTSA this week over what constitutes a recall.

Though Musk made a decent point by correcting what many early reports had posted as a traditional recall of Model S cars, a seasoned automobile industry executive would have kept his or her Twitter feed quiet, thinks Brauer.

Typically, automakers can negotiate behind the scenes with the NHTSA on the size and scope of a recall.

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Comments (27)
  • 3D Investing
    , contributor
    Comments (1552) | Send Message
    Nah, it's not a traditional "recall" by any means.


    It's an OTA update and you get a extra piece of hardware. You choose to use it or not.


    The fires were not caused by Tesla chargers but the bad wiring of the home.


    Telling EM to not tweet is like taking away their entire marketing campaign.
    17 Jan 2014, 10:02 AM Reply Like
  • chickensevil
    , contributor
    Comments (743) | Send Message
    Honestly between his tweets, the press releases and press videos, and the actual newspaper/press reporting information it raises their awareness profile for marking purposes without actually needing a marking budget.


    Any news in this case is good news. Because right after something hits the streets someone who actually owns a car is able to tell their friends the truth and set them straight. If someone hasn't heard about Tesla and they find out about it because of the news broadcast, they will hit up google and be instantly able to find out all the positive things on the car. So I don't really mind. Let people make a big deal out of nothing haha!
    17 Jan 2014, 08:17 PM Reply Like
  • Esekla
    , contributor
    Comments (4744) | Send Message
    Probably true, but if our government really works on such emotions, then the government needs a recall. The initial reports really were misleading, as documented here:


    17 Jan 2014, 10:05 AM Reply Like
  • rjcbox
    , contributor
    Comments (12) | Send Message
    the US gov't needs a recall
    17 Jan 2014, 10:16 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Is the charger part of the car? No
    Can the car operate without the 220 adapter? Yes


    Was it proven to be the adapter's fault? No


    A recall implies a defective piece of equipment or programing.


    Fixing something because an electrician outside of your control did not do the right thing should not be a recall.


    Does GM or Ford issue a recall because some mechanic decided to inflate a customer's tires to 80 psi and the tires blow out? After all there should be a pressure release valve built in to prevent over inflation.
    Does Fiat start installing grounding cables so that no static discharges occur at gas stations.


    Would you recall a toaster if the outlet caught fire?
    If the toaster maker heard of a fire involving their toaster and had an indication that the wiring may not be up to code ( no permits for that outlet) they could wait for others to happen, take a PR hit, or give an adapter that may rectify the home electrical issue.


    That's a good business practice. Fixing something that you feel is not your products fault, but can prevent future occurances.
    17 Jan 2014, 10:21 AM Reply Like
  • chopchop0
    , contributor
    Comments (5268) | Send Message
    great analogies
    17 Jan 2014, 12:55 PM Reply Like
  • JRP3
    , contributor
    Comments (10464) | Send Message
    To be accurate the charger is part of the car, it's inside the vehicle. The wall plug at issue is not, nor is the adapter circuitry, often mistakenly referred to as a charger, which is actually just a smart switch and cable, known as an EVSE, Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment.
    18 Jan 2014, 08:43 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    Good catch- adapter plug is more accurate.
    18 Jan 2014, 04:34 PM Reply Like
  • Chudnoff
    , contributor
    Comments (9) | Send Message
    Karl Brauer is wrong! Elon Musk is no rookie. Being politically correct with ofttimes useless government agencies is not the name of the game. Being on the cutting edge is. I just bought a model S and was informed that a new plug and software change were included. The purpose was to correct for basically improperly installed outlets in consumers homes. The car now will, on it's own, correct for home defects by dialing down its own consumption of line voltage. The real problem is that NHTSA dumbs down everything and protects all consumers as if they were children. The saving grace is that it appears that the Tesla customer is a better educated and wiser automobile consumer than our government can deal with. Onward and upward Elon.
    17 Jan 2014, 10:29 AM Reply Like
  • earl ledden
    , contributor
    Comments (29) | Send Message
    Elan is right to make the technical point; otherwise, much ado about nothing, the difference between Twittillidee and Twittillidum.
    17 Jan 2014, 10:30 AM Reply Like
  • Albertico
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    According to this report he might as well bend over and let them say they are recalling the Model S.


    Calling it a rookie mistake just because he disputed something which was not true sounds a little biased. Same thing with saying a seasoned executive would have kept his mouth shut. Again, why not just ask him to bend over?


    Elon Musk had nothing that needed to be negotiated behind the scenes with NHTSA because nothing was being recalled. All 3 of these bullet points make it sound as if he should be acting like a politician when running his company.
    17 Jan 2014, 10:35 AM Reply Like
  • Ford Prefect 1969
    , contributor
    Comments (2267) | Send Message
    Any concern on this point is answered directly in the body of the article:


    "The company is doing a good job of communicating with and responding to the agency, he said.


    “The other dynamics aren’t important,” Friedman said.


    David J. Friedman was sworn in as the Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on May 15, 2013 and currently serves as acting NHTSA Chief Administrator following resignation of the agency's previous Chief Administrator David Strickland last month.
    17 Jan 2014, 10:36 AM Reply Like
  • Raster
    , contributor
    Comments (824) | Send Message
    Who's the rookie here? Karl, or Elon?


    The adapter in question, the NEMA 14-50 adapter, is a small independent part that could fit in the palm of your hand. Many of us that have Tesla cars don't even use that adapter (myself included).
    17 Jan 2014, 10:47 AM Reply Like
  • champ1
    , contributor
    Comments (160) | Send Message
    Politics, pure and simple. Does anyone know how long it will be, before NHTSA concludes the investigation and provides the results? Thank you and best of luck to all investors!
    17 Jan 2014, 11:53 AM Reply Like
  • aaronw2
    , contributor
    Comments (291) | Send Message
    The adapter in question is more like a gas cap and really is no big deal. It's like one of those adapters that Americans use to plug into European outlets.


    I myself don't even use it since I installed a high-power wall connector allowing me to charge at twice the rate (5.5 hours for a full charge at home overnight). It's nice to wake up each morning to have the equivalent of a full tank (though I usually charge to around 60-70%).
    17 Jan 2014, 12:20 PM Reply Like
  • hyeduk
    , contributor
    Comments (138) | Send Message
    NHTSA is corrupt. What else Elon supposed to say when instead of posting their (NHTSA) fire probe results, which will clear Tesla of any manufactured-related problems, NHTSA switched their attention to adapter-related fires as it was the only reason they opened a probe. What adapters have to do with a tow hitch/metal debris high way accidents?


    Some sharks from WS and the Big Three tell NHTSA not to announce their results which will propel the stock even higher, but rather distort the truth and manipulate facts to damage Tesla's reputation.
    17 Jan 2014, 01:14 PM Reply Like
  • Miro Kefurt
    , contributor
    Comments (885) | Send Message
    If you change the software that is IN the car, it is for all practical reasons RECALL, if it was ONLY the plug in adapter that would be considered accessory. Accessories can be recalled independently and normally that would be by the accessory manufacturer and not the vehicle OEM.
    The company located in Chino, California that made the adapter, while named in the recall documents is NOT recalling anything, it is TESLA Motors that is instigating the recall.
    17 Jan 2014, 01:35 PM Reply Like
  • JRP3
    , contributor
    Comments (10464) | Send Message
    Tesla updates the software in the car all the time, it's never a recall. Ridiculous to suggest otherwise.
    18 Jan 2014, 08:45 AM Reply Like
  • Dan Fichana
    , contributor
    Comments (1918) | Send Message
    There's a double edged sword with classifying the Tesla software update as a recall.


    The Tesla update, if we are just considering the smart charging software, does not change the functionality of the car. The car still operates as normal, and in most cases would not change anything for the average consumer.


    Conversely, we have this


    Ford updating the software to change the parameters so the the acceration, avaliable hp, when the hybrid system kicks in to improve a large discrepancy in the mpg, and you have to take it to the dealer.


    Essentially you can't say one is an update and one is a recall.
    If anything, the Ford one should be considered a recall.
    It was already set as a precident via Ford that a software update is not a recall, so we have to apply the same logic to Tesla.
    20 Jan 2014, 09:09 AM Reply Like
  • litewavve
    , contributor
    Comments (2) | Send Message
    A tradition auto exec laughed at Tesla initially.
    17 Jan 2014, 01:49 PM Reply Like
    , contributor
    Comments (42) | Send Message
    Sounds like the government backed by the established auto companies going after the TESLA like they did the TUCKER in the late 40's
    17 Jan 2014, 03:57 PM Reply Like
  • GeoffHiker
    , contributor
    Comments (100) | Send Message
    That's what Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota executives dream about when they sleep at night, if they sleep at night.
    19 Jan 2014, 12:45 PM Reply Like
  • manfredthree
    , contributor
    Comments (3155) | Send Message
    Brauer is simply wrong. Musk did the correct thing to stand Tesla's ground.
    The NHTSA is not an arbitrary political organisation. To suggest that NHTSA would exact retribution from Tesla or Musk over an issue of pride and semantics would be largely unprofessional of Brauer, and taken at face value , his employer would bring his comment to scrutiny and focus.
    17 Jan 2014, 07:48 PM Reply Like
  • speedofov
    , contributor
    Comments (91) | Send Message
    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi


    The first three have happened and it's moving to the logical conclusion.
    17 Jan 2014, 08:41 PM Reply Like
  • fiwiki
    , contributor
    Comments (2898) | Send Message
    The logical conclusion in a fight is that the " winner " wins. Tesla has much to prove to become an established winner.
    17 Jan 2014, 10:21 PM Reply Like
  • surferbroadband
    , contributor
    Comments (5243) | Send Message
    Fiwiki, I think Tesla has already won. Once the supercharger network is built out and the Gen III is being produced, it is game over for the rest of the industry.
    18 Jan 2014, 02:11 AM Reply Like
  • GeoffHiker
    , contributor
    Comments (100) | Send Message
    Negotiating with the NHTSA is something a car company does when it knows it has a defect and is trying to avoid or reduce a costly fix. Elon Musk is way above Karl Brauer's kind of thinking.
    I read the fire investigator's report. The fire investigator couldn't conclude whether the plug or socket was defective. The outlet box housing for the plug was plastic. I suggest updating the building code to make it a metal box housing the plug for such a high current, high power connection. If some sawdust gets into the plug and starts a fire, the metal box has a better chance of containing the fire.
    19 Jan 2014, 12:39 PM Reply Like
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