Tesla Motors Pioneers Novel Way to Inspect all 90,000 Tesla Model S Cars for Seatbelt Fault

For as long as we can remember, automakers and auto dealer associations unhappy with Tesla Motors and its direct sales model have tried to argue that Tesla’s own network of Tesla Stores and Tesla Service Centres simply couldn’t cope with a major service campaign or recall.

Tesla is sending engineers to Supercharger sites to check seat belts while owners wait.

Tesla is sending engineers to Supercharger sites to check seat belts while owners wait.

Without fully-trained, franchised dealerships willing and able to do the necessary repair work, they argued, there was no way that Tesla could possibly carry out  full-blown recall campaign without massive delays, unhappy customers, and long lead times.

Now, Tesla has proven once and for all that it doesn’t need to follow the traditional franchised dealership methodology to meet its customers needs. How? An innovative recall campaign that brings Tesla’s service centre staff to the place where Tesla customers already visit regularly: supercharger stations.

The recall, announced late last week in an email to customers, has been prompted by a discovery in Europe two weeks ago of a Tesla Model S in which a front seat belt was not correctly connected to the outboard lap pretensioner. According to Tesla, a customer sitting in the front passenger seat of their Tesla Model S turned to speak with a rear-seat occupant, only to discover that the seat belt became disconnected.

Tesla says only one seat belt detachment has been reported, but all 90,000 cars made will be checked.

Tesla says only one seat belt detachment has been reported, but all 90,000 cars made will be checked.

“In early November, a customer sitting in the front passenger seat turned to speak with occupants in the rear and the seat belt became disconnected,” a Tesla representative told Bloomberg on Friday.  “The seat belt is anchored to the outboard lap pretensioner through two anchor plates that are bolted together. The bolt that was supposed to tie the two anchors together wasn’t properly assembled.”

No injuries were sustained as a consequence of this event, nor was the car involved in any collision. Nevertheless, Tesla says that “in the event of a crash, a seat belt in this condition would not provide full protection,” and has thus decided to execute a full recall of all 90,000 Model S cars made.

As with any automaker, Tesla has followed standard recall practice, notifying both the relevant authorities of the voluntary recall as well as notifying its owners of the recall. Unlike most automakers however, who have to give their franchised dealerships anything from a few weeks to more than a month to prepare for the recall, Tesla is already booking in customers’ cars to carry out the short procedure toSet featured imagecheck the construction of each seat belt.

And here’s where it gets clever. Since the inspection itself takes no more than a few minutes, Tesla has sent its service engineers to Supercharger sites around the world to check customers’ cars as they arrive to charge their cars.

Yet again, Tesla has proven it doesnt need traditional dealerships to service owners cars.

Yet again, Tesla has proven it doesn’t need traditional dealerships to service owners’ cars.

Since the cars themselves will be there longer than it takes to carry out the inspection, the resulting recall action is a stroke of management genius.

As Tesla owner and well-known YouTuber Bjørn Nyland documented on Sunday, the recall is quick and painless. Moreover, by checking customers’ cars while they are at a Supercharger station, Tesla ensures it can confirm correct operation of seat belts in customers’ cars without asking them to take out time in their busy schedules.

It’s very different to the usual recall program experienced through a dealership, where customers may have to take time off work or wait until a day off to spend a morning or afternoon at the local dealership.

When it launched in 2012, the Tesla Model S broke new ground in the automotive world. As well as being the longest-range, highest-performance electric sedan ever built, its always-on Internet connection meant Tesla could do some pretty amazing things to customers cars.

Not only could Tesla send new features and capabilities to cars via over-the-air software updates, but it could also remotely diagnose (and often fix) problems with customers’ cars, without owners ever needing to set foot in a Tesla Service Centre. Even when a problem could not be fixed remotely, the on-board diagnostics meant that Tesla was able to ensure it had the right parts in stock for when the owner dropped the car off for repair.

On several occasions, Tesla has even pushed over-the-air updates to the Model S’ on-board operating system to fix problems or faults that would necessitate most automakers to execute a full-scale recall.

Combine that with Tesla’s clever approach to its seat belt recall, and we’re wondering why the rest of the auto industry feels Tesla needs franchised dealerships. Admittedly, Tesla’s wait times have been going up of late, but for most customers that particular problem can be solved with more service centres, something Tesla is already working hard to remedy.

Have you been affected by this recall? Have you visited a Supercharger to get your Model S fixed? Or perhaps you’re someone who wishes that other automakers would follow Tesla’s lead on this particular problem. How would you like your service and recall experience to change?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • The latest recall where Tesla meets owners at superchargers to check on safety equipment is just another example of how well the company understands it’s customers and their roll as advocates. Both of the service experiences we’ve had with Tesla have been phenomenal, and I don’t use that word often. We are thrilled with our Tesla, the service we’ve received, and the new features on our car waiting for us some wonderful morning every few months or so.

  • Jack Brown

    Pulled into a SC in Seaside, near Monterey, CA. Not a huge location, but there was a tech there on a Sunday and took care of the inspection within 5 minutes of pulling up for my free electrons. I didn’t lose a econd of time and got my tire pressure checked as well. Prior recalls with other companies took weeks to resolve and inconvenience of finding a rental car for the day.

  • Ben Nelson

    I can’t imagine some other car company sending out techs to gas stations and having them do a recall check while you pump gas!

  • Jacob_Denver_USA

    I took mine to the local service center, and the inspection was finished by the time I finished signing the work order. Wonderful service!

  • Brian Kent

    The most masterful aspect of this situation is that Tesla can notify all its customers instantly of the issue via over-the-airwaves in car notifications.

    Owners of any other vehicle would be much more difficult to notify in a timely fashion. This company is nonstop genius. Those who don’t get it simply can’t.

    Sufficiently advanced technology will always appear as magic.

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