Federal regulators are asking Tesla Inc. to recall about 158,000 vehicles over safety concerns in what would amount to one of the biggest safety actions by the electric-vehicle maker.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Tesla in a Jan. 13 letter to recall some Model S luxury sedans and Model X sport-utility vehicles. NHTSA asked for the recall because the cars’ touch screens can fail after a few years of use, affecting safety functions such as defogging and back-up cameras.
Some car safety recalls run into millions of vehicles. Though modest by historic numbers, the action would represent a relatively large recall for Tesla, which has far fewer cars on the road than some rivals. The Silicon Valley car maker delivered nearly 500,000 vehicles globally last year, roughly 205,600 of them in the U.S., according to market-research firm Motor Intelligence. Tesla doesn’t break out its sales by region.
Tesla doesn’t have to recall the vehicles, though NHTSA said in the letter that if the car maker doesn’t take the action it has to provide an explanation for its decision. The agency can then escalate the matter to a public hearing and eventually seek to force a recall through the courts.
Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights, said the recall request was significant and could cost $300 million to $500 million to address.