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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Tesla under investigation after steering wheels fall off while driving

A Tesla Model Y sits at a Tesla delivery center in Marina del Rey, Calif.a, U.S., on Jan. 13.   (Eric Thayer/Bloomberg)
By Richard Clough Bloomberg

Tesla is under investigation by U.S. regulators over complaints the steering wheel can fall off certain new Model Y vehicles while they’re in use.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it’s aware of two incidents in which the wheel detached from the steering column while drivers were operating the 2023 model year SUVs. The preliminary evaluation, opened March 4, applies to an estimated 120,089 vehicles, according to a filing posted on NHTSA’s website.

The affected vehicles were delivered to owners without the retaining bolt that holds the steering wheel in place, the agency said. NHTSA is assessing “the scope, frequency and manufacturing processes associated with this condition.”

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The move by NHTSA is the latest in a series of investigations targeting Tesla, its products and its chief executive officer, Elon Musk. The Austin, Texas-based automaker last month recalled 362,758 electric vehicles after NHTSA said Tesla’s automated-driving technology could increase the risk of a crash.

Tesla shares fell 1.1% as of 8:50 a.m. before regular trading in New York. The Associated Press earlier reported the NHTSA probe.

The Model Y is a key product for Tesla, which recently started manufacturing the vehicle at its two newest plants – one outside Berlin and the other in Austin. Tesla, which reports a combined figure for its Model Y and Model 3 deliveries, handed over more than 1.2 million of the vehicles last year. The Model Y was the best-selling EV globally last year and could be one of the top vehicles of any type this year, according to BloombergNEF.

Steering wheel detachments, while rare, are not unique to Tesla.

Ford in August 2022 recalled 692 F-53 Motorhome Stripped Chassis and F-59 Commercial Stripped Chassis vehicles over worries that the steering wheel attachment bolt could loosen and separate from the steering column. It also recalled about 1.3 million Ford and Lincoln brand vehicles in 2018 for a similar problem.