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Tesla’s weird week

TechCrunch TechCrunch 10/06/2016 Fitz Tepper

It’s been a weird few days for Tesla.

In a span of just 72 hours the Model S was accused of having major suspension issues, the NHTSA supposedly got involved, Tesla explained that there is nothing wrong and the NHTSA isn’t actually investigating the issue, and Elon Musk tweeted that the whole thing was a giant conspiracy.

Woah. Ok, let’s take a step back and dissect this.

Angry Bloggers

On Wednesday, a car-focused blog posted a report that a Tesla in Pennsylvania was suffering from suspension issues.

It also detailed that Tesla owners with similarly affected cars were reportedly being asked to sign repair agreements with a confidentiality clause, that potentially limited the driver’s ability to report the defect to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And lastly, the post said that NHTSA investigators were “in contact with Tesla requesting more information on these parts and others in the suspension.”

The next day, a report broke saying that The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was investigating suspension problems in the model S.

Most of the time, when it’s announced that NHTSA regulators are investigating a safety feature in a company’s flagship car, shit hits the fan. And it did.

Within hours, major news publications were reporting that the NHTSA had begun investigating Tesla’s suspension problems, and were also concerned with strange non-disclosure wording in the customer goodwill repair agreement. The markets were also reacting, with the company’s stock trading down about 4% over the course of the day.

Thing’s weren’t looking bright for the electric car company, and the issues seem to have all stemmed from that single blog post.

Tesla Strikes Back

But then just hours later, Tesla released a blog post with their own version of the story. Titled “A Grain of Salt“, the blog post essentially shut down every angle of the issue, trying to prove that there wasn’t really an issue to begin with.

First, it explained that there are “no safety defect with the suspensions in either the Model S or Model X.” Addressing the one car from the original blog post, it said that the suspension ball joint experienced very abnormal rust, something they have never see on another car. Tesla also threw some shade on the owner, saying “the car had over 70,000 miles on it and its owner lives down such a long dirt road that it required two tow trucks to retrieve the car”.

Next, it clarified the issue with the goodwill repair agreement, saying that it would “never ask a customer to sign a document to prevent them from talking to NHTSA or any other government agency.” The car company explained that the point of the document was to “ensure that Tesla doesn’t do a good deed, only to have that used against us in court for further gain”.

Got it. So Tesla basically is saying that all the mentioned issues were either false or over-exaggerated. But of course that wasn’t enough for the always feisty car company. In the last section of the post Tesla got personal, throwing shade on the original blogger that started this whole ordeal the day prior. I’ll post it below so you can read it in all its original glory.

Finally, it is worth noting that the blogger who fabricated this issue, which then caused negative and incorrect news to be written about Tesla by reputable institutions, is Edward Niedermeyer. This is the same gentle soul who previously wrote a blog titled “Tesla Death Watch,” which starting on May 19, 2008 was counting the days until Tesla’s death. It has now been 2,944 days. We just checked our pulse and, much to his chagrin, appear to be alive. It is probably wise to take Mr. Niedermeyer’s words with at least a small grain of salt.- The Tesla Team

Ok. So Tesla has made it clear that there are probably no suspension issues, but what about the NHTSA?

Musk Finishes The Job

Just a few hours later, Musk took to Twitter to confirm that the NHTSA found no reasons for concern regarding the Model S suspension, and has no further need to collect information from Tesla on the matter.

Then, Musk said that about 90 percent of the suspension complaints to the NHTSA were fake – using a false location or VIN number. Weird. Could it be a conspiracy? Musk thinks so.

The whole things seems a little weird, and very confusing. Was there an isolated issue with one car suspension? It seems yes. Was there strange wording in the goodwill agreement that may have confused owners? It seems yes. But is the NHTSA actively investigating Tesla for manufacturing faulty suspensions and intentionally misleading customers with a nondisclosure agreement? No.

At the end of the day, the moral of the story is probably to listen to Tesla’s blog post title and just take everything with a grain of salt, until you can actually take time and figure out yourself what is actually going on. Oh, and don’t get in a fight with Elon Musk.

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