You're driving along and the steering wheel comes off in your hands. Usually, the next thing that happens is you wake up. For one Tesla owner, though, the nightmare was very real, and the response they received from the automaker was less than satisfactory. Now, Tesla has fixed the problem by replacing the entire car.
In January, Prerak Patel was aghast when the steering wheel came off while driving his new Tesla Model Y, just six days after delivery. He was able to safely stop the vehicle, but was later shocked to receive a bill from Tesla for the repair. As covered by InsideEVs, Patel railed against the bill on Twitter, and sought to return the vehicle to the automaker on safety grounds. In the end, Tesla relented, and offered to replace Patel's Model Y with a new build.
After Patel first complained that the issue was not being covered under warranty, the Tesla Service Center eventually offered a refund on the repair bill. Still unsatisfied, Patel sought to return the car as his family had "lost faith" in Tesla. Tesla apparently then contacted Patel, offering him the option to keep the car or have it replaced. Patel held a poll on Twitter, with the latter option scoring 83.4% of the vote. Patel's Model Y was subsequently bought back by Tesla, and he was provided a loaner Model Y to drive until his car is duly replaced.
In a letter to Patel, Tesla didn't admit fault for the issue, and claimed it was handling the matter as a "gesture of goodwill" to the customer. According to the document, the company determined that "the Vehicle contains no defect, non-conformity or other warrantable condition, or any other basis for Tesla's liability." That seems unlikely given the steering wheel literally fell off, but the company took that position regardless. Denying the defect is a curious move that doesn't seem in good faith.
At this time, there is no active recall on the Tesla Model Y for steering wheel issues. However, nine 2023 Model Y vehicles are suspected of having improperly tightened front suspension fasteners, as per the NHTSA.
It's not the first time this has happened to a Tesla, either. A similar scenario happened to the owner of a Model S that was less than a month old back in 2020. Despite the protests of some Tesla supporters that it's a relatively common failure, steering wheels, by and large, tend to stay attached. We have seen recalls for this issue in the past, though in those cases, the problem was due to improperly tightened fasteners that backed out over time. In the case of the aforementioned Model S, Tesla had failed to install the appropriate steering wheel fixings entirely.
Losing steering at speed is a harrowing thing, and the best news is that Patel and his family were unharmed in the incident. Under those circumstances, it's understandable that one would wish to return the car or have it replaced. It's good that Tesla came to the party to support its aggrieved customer, though the problem is one that should never have happened in the first place.
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