The issue is the locking hinge that lets the third row seats fold forward. In 15 tests for the US market, there were no problems discovered. But, when Tesla did a 16th test to get ready for the European market – and that test is slightly different – that latch in the third-row seats failed and the seat flopped forward, said Jon McNeil, Tesla's president of sales and service. Tesla then did subsequent tests to confirm the failure and, once confirmed, Tesla decided to institute this recall. There have been no issues of any failures out in the field, McNeil said, but "we're erring on the side of putting our customers' safety first."
When Tesla did a 16th test for the European market, the latch in the third-row seats failed.
As it got ready to build the X, Tesla brought some of its seat manufacturing in house to make the X's second-row seats. The third-row seats (and the latches), though, were made by Futuris, which will bear the cost of this recall, McNeil said. Each of the two third-row seats has a latch, and both will be replaced in all of the roughly 2,700 Xs built before March 26, 2016. Most of these have been delivered to customers in the US and the rest are still with Tesla and will be fixed before delivery. Tesla will start letting customers know about the recall today, and you can read the letter it will send out below. McNeil said that an individual repair will take about two hours in a Tesla service center, and that it will take about five weeks to replace all of the seats. Despite the recall, "Futuris remains a supplier," McNeil said.
Technically, under US safety standards, the X does not need to be recalled, but "the EU test is different in its method and the strength it measures," McNeil said. "I think it's safe to say it's more stringent." NHTSA has not yet tested the X and Tesla will be processing this recall through NHTSA's channels.
While this is the first recall for the Model X, there were three for the Model S: one for the seat belt, another for the wall charger adapter (so not technically a recall of the car), and a seat striker issue. There was also a recall for auxiliary cable issues in the Roadster.
Here is the email we sent today to all affected Model X customers:
We are emailing to inform you of a proactive action Tesla is taking to ensure your safety as a Model X owner. Tesla's internally conducted crash testing demonstrates that Model X will be the first SUV to receive the highest safety rating in every category, and we are committed to ensuring that it remains the safest SUV in the world.
Recently, during an internal seat strength test that was conducted prior to the start of Model X deliveries in Europe, the recliner in a third row Model X seat unexpectedly slipped. The recliner, which is provided to us by an outside supplier, is the locking hinge that allows the third row seat back to fold forward, and if a recliner were to slip during a crash, the seat back could move forward. Similar testing was conducted before the start of deliveries in North America, with 15 confirmation tests having been conducted without a single recliner failure. Despite these prior successful tests and no reports of a third row seat slipping in any customer vehicles, we have decided to conduct a voluntary recall as a precautionary measure and will be replacing all affected third row seat backs.
Our records show that you own a Model X affected by this voluntary recall. We will shortly send you an official recall notice by mail, but we wanted to alert you to this action as soon as possible.
A fix to this issue is already in place. We have worked with our supplier to develop a new recliner design with improved quality that resolved the issue. We are now constructing new third row seat backs to match all affected vehicles. Your service center will contact you to schedule the installation of your replacement seat backs as soon as they are available. Based on current production rates, we expect all replacements to be completed on a rolling basis over the next five weeks. We will accelerate this timing if possible.
Until the recall is performed, you may make full use of your Model X, although we ask that you temporarily not have anyone sit in the third row seats while the car is in use. We recognize that not having the use of your third row seats for the next few weeks will be an inconvenience, but your safety is our primary concern. We assure you that we are building your new seat backs as fast as we can.
Thank you for being a Tesla customer. If you have any questions, please contact us by phone at 844-248-3752 or by email at ServiceHelpNA@teslamotors.com. We apologize for this inconvenience.