The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has rejected a petition to investigate Tesla's software updates that allegedly caused the fires in China. The administration stated that noncrash battery fires in Tesla vehicles are rare events, so it is unlikely that an order concerning the notification and remedy of a safety-related defect would be issued.
In November 2019, Federal safety officials opened an inquiry into alleged battery defects with Tesla sedans and SUVs. NHTSA has evaluated a petition to investigate potential defects in Tesla batteries, particularly those for Model S and X vehicles produced for model years 2012 through 2019. An attorney filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Tesla owners brought the petition to the agency's Office of Defects Investigation, citing an “alarming number of car fires” that appeared to be spontaneous.
NHTSA announced on October 4, 2021, that it had rejected the 2019 petition. The agency said in documents posted to the Federal Register that it found a pattern of fires in China after cars were charged at Superchargers, but no similar fires were found in the U.S. NHTSA said the three noncrash fires outside of China mentioned in the petition—two of which were in the U.S.—either originated outside the battery or were not related to fast-charging.
The agency said it will not conduct formal fire investigations on software updates. “The available data indicate that noncrash battery fires in Tesla vehicles are rare events,” NHTSA wrote. “It is unlikely that an order concerning the notification and remedy of a safety-related defect would be issued due to any investigation opened as a result of granting this petition.”
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