Tesla Criticizes Acceleration Petition Filed to NHTSA

An aerial photograph taken above the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., in October 2019.
Tesla Inc. has pushed back against a petition filed with NHTSA alleging a defect that can cause unintended acceleration in its vehicles.

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Tesla Inc. fired back against a petition filed with U.S. regulators, saying in a blog post Jan. 20 that it’s “completely false and was brought by a Tesla short seller.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is evaluating allegations that Tesla Inc. vehicles contain a defect that can cause sudden unintended acceleration, according to a notice posted on the agency’s website last week. The review was prompted by a petition asking the agency to open a defect investigation of some 500,000 Tesla vehicles over the alleged flaw. The petition cited 127 consumer complaints to the agency and claims of 110 crashes.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of electric vehicles said it investigates every incident where a driver “alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input.” In every case where Tesla had the vehicle’s data, it confirmed the car operated as designed, the carmaker said.

“The car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake,” Tesla said in the post.

NHTSA, after a technical review, can either deny the petition or grant it and open a formal probe of the alleged issue. Any member of the public can petition NHTSA for a defect investigation, and many have been rejected by the agency.

In October, NHTSA said it would evaluate a separate petition alleging that Tesla updated battery management software in response to a potential defect that could lead to fires.

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