Tesla is accustomed to bad press — CEO Elon Musk has often fired off snarky responses on Twitter before the end of the news cycle. However, Musk is a bit more controlled these days. Tesla has issued an official response to last week’s claims of unintended acceleration, and it’s leaving no question as to its position. Tesla says the petition is completely false.
Tesla kicks off its brief response by reminding everyone that the person who submitted the petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is an independent investor. As we previously noted, investor Brian Sparks is shorting Tesla’s stock, so he stands to make money if the company’s share price drops. While that doesn’t necessarily mean Sparks is incorrect, Tesla claims the symptoms described in the complaints are not possible in Tesla vehicles.
According to Tesla, it has investigated every claim of unintended acceleration for which it has data from the car. In all instances, the vehicle performed as expected. That is, it accelerated in response to the driver pressing the accelerator. In addition, Tesla says the incidents described in the petition simply cannot happen in its vehicles. The accelerator uses two independent sensors to determine position, and the system defaults to cut motor torque in the event of an error. The system also cuts power to the motor if it detects both the accelerator and brake being pressed at the same time.
The term “unintended acceleration” came into use during the early 2000s when Toyota drivers began reporting instances of vehicles speeding up seemingly of their own free will. Toyota eventually had to recall millions of vehicles and suspended sales of several models after several deaths linked to the issue. Tesla sells performance vehicles, and unintended acceleration in a Tesla could be much more dangerous.
The NHTSA hasn’t decided to start a formal investigation, but it is evaluating the petition submitted by Sparks. He claims the 100+ incidents listed in the petition signal a troubling trend with Tesla vehicles. It’ll be up to regulators to decide whether or not it warrants a full investigation. If the agency takes action, Tesla’s stock price will likely fall and make Sparks money. So far, the petition hasn’t had any impact. After a brief fall-off on Friday, Tesla shares are trading higher than they were last week.
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