Tesla has identified a significant safety issue affecting certain 2021-2023 Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles. The problem lies in the installation of incorrect steering wheel airbags during vehicle servicing. This issue predominantly arose during the retrofitting of vehicles with alternate steering wheels based on customer requests.
Discovery of the Issue
The problem came to Tesla’s attention in October 2023, when Tesla Service in Europe encountered 12 instances where vehicles with round steering wheels were retrofitted with yoke steering wheels. However, there was no confirmation of the appropriate driver airbag variant installation for the yoke steering wheels. This prompted Tesla to initiate an engineering study in the U.S., encompassing 10 vehicles. Of the three vehicles inspected, one was found to have the wrong driver airbag variant, meant for the round steering wheel.
The Nature of the Problem
At the core of this issue is the mismatch between the steering wheel design and the driver airbag variant. The round steering wheel and the yoke steering wheel each require a distinct driver airbag design. During servicing, some vehicles were erroneously equipped with a driver airbag variant mismatched to the steering wheel type. This discrepancy can potentially compromise airbag performance during deployment, elevating the risk of injury in the event of a collision.
Recall and Safety Concerns
As a result of these findings, Tesla decided to recall all vehicles that underwent a steering wheel retrofit – either from a round to a yoke steering wheel or vice versa. This decision underscores the potential safety risks associated with the airbag performance in these retrofitted vehicles.
Official Recall Information
Tesla has issued a recall with the number SB-23-20-005. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has assigned the campaign number 23V-743 to this recall. This recall highlights the critical importance of matching the correct airbag variant to the specific design of a vehicle’s steering wheel.