The NHTSA, the agency responsible for handling recalls and vehicle safety, is not convinced that a change in terminology is needed for Tesla’s vehicle recalls. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of Tesla’s vehicle recalls are performed through software remedies, complicating traditional headlines. Media outlets often sensationalize recalls with headlines like “Tesla recalls 2 million vehicles for safety issue,” when in reality, the issue is small and fixable through a software update that can be applied while the owner is asleep. Fans and CEO Elon Musk have called for an update to the terminology, as the problem with affected vehicles was remedied through a software download and update, without the need for physical repairs at a service center.
Musk emphasized that the current terminology is outdated and inaccurate, pointing out that there have been no injuries related to the affected vehicles. The specific issue with the affected Tesla vehicles was related to the font size of the brake and park warning indicators. Despite affecting 2.2 million vehicles, the remedy was a simple over-the-air software update, which did not require physical intervention from the owners. Ford is another company using Over-the-Air updates to solve vehicle problems, but the NHTSA maintains that any defect, regardless of whether it can be resolved through software or a physical repair, still constitutes a recall because it poses a safety risk.
They emphasize that safety defects should be remedied as soon as possible, and the method of repair does not impact the terminology used. Recalls are important as they alert vehicle owners of potential safety issues. While OTA updates are convenient, they may not always be successful, and the safety risks associated with unresolved defects are still significant. The NHTSA does not see a comparison between software updates for devices like iPhones and vehicle safety defects, as the latter can pose significant risks to both drivers and others on the road.
Ultimately, it looks like the NHTSA does not plan to update the terminology used for recalls, as it applies to the nature of the issue rather than the medium of repair. Despite disagreement about the use of the term “recall,” it seems unlikely to change in the near future.