Tesla Model Y And Nissan Ariya Steering Wheels At Risk Of Falling Off

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But Nissan is teaching Tesla a thing or two about how to handle quality control and safety issues without upsetting customers.

Nissan has issued a voluntary recall of 1,063 Ariya EVs for the potential risk of loose steering wheels detaching from the column at around the same time as the NHTSA launched an official investigation into the 2023 Tesla Model Y for the same issue. This current scenario is highly coincidental but has the potential of becoming a textbook example of how to handle a safety and PR disaster exceptionally well in the case of Nissan and horribly wrong in the case of Tesla.

Tesla made news at the start of February when a customer's weeks-old Model Y had its steering wheel detach while he was driving down the highway. Initially, Tesla charged him to repair the vehicle but later reversed the charge, and after much hullabaloo was raised on Twitter, the American automaker agreed to replace the Model Y with a new one as a 'gesture of goodwill' despite claiming there was no defect or warrantable issue with his original car.


Disturbingly, a second incident has been recorded recently, too, and yet Tesla has remained quiet on the matter. This has prompted the NHTSA to launch an investigation, which was opened on 4 March 2023. While the investigation is still underway, it appears the two vehicles were delivered to customers without the retaining bolt on the steering wheel. The investigation has discovered that both affected cars were subject to end-of-line repairs in which the wheel was removed and reattached, and it seems that it was in this process that the wheel was never refitted properly, held in place only by a friction fit.

It has not yet been established how many more Model Y SUVs may be affected, but the NHTSA estimates it could be as many as 120,089.

Tesla's silence on the matter and the fact that the NHTSA has initiated the investigation stands in stark contrast to how Nissan is dealing with a remarkably similar issue.

2020-2023 Tesla Model Y Front View Driving Tesla
2020-2023 Tesla Model Y Dashboard Tesla

In the case of the 2023 Nissan Ariya, Nissan has issued a voluntary recall of just more than a thousand units. In a similar chain of events, the affected vehicles had their steering wheels removed and refitted during a port modification activity in which the wheel itself was replaced due to quality issues. Nissan claims that a technician may have applied the incorrect torque setting to the steering wheel bolt, and in some cases, left it off entirely.

While the safety issue is similar, Nissan's means of handling it is completely different. Instead of relying on a customer to report the issue, it was a Nissan dealer employee that detected the problem on 30 January (the same day the Tesla driver lost his wheel, coincidentally). Thereafter, a second loose wheel was detected by a dealer on 8 February, and Nissan launched a full-scale investigation to find the link between the affected vehicles. The aforementioned port modification activity was identified, and it was further identified that the same technician had worked on both cars.

2023 Nissan Ariya Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz

Instead of just stopping there, Nissan launched a dealer quality check on 418 Ariyas involved in the same port modification activity, uncovering a third faulty wheel on 20 February. By 21 February, three weeks after the initial incident was reported, the Japanese automaker launched a voluntary recall with an estimated 1% defect rate, and the very next day, a stop-sale was placed on the potentially affected Ariyas.

Recall notices were sent out to owners at the start of March, and all repairs will be completed free of charge in less than an hour.

That sort of efficiency is something we've seen prior from Volkswagen when it issued a recall for potential battery fires in the VW ID.4.

2023 Nissan Ariya Front Angle View CarBuzz

The two distinctly different ways in which a similar issue was handled highlight one of the biggest flaws buyers have had with Tesla products - the way it responds to potential safety threats and treats its clients. Tesla's impact on the automotive landscape can't be overstated, but its quality checks, PR, and safety protocols leave much to be desired. Recalls on Tesla models are regularly forced by the NHTSA rather than Tesla itself, which is not very confidence-inspiring in a brand that wants you to trust it to let its cars drive themselves completely in the very near future

It's clear Tesla still has a way to go before it can live up to the standards set by some legacy automakers.

2023 Nissan Ariya View Out Back CarBuzz
2020-2023 Tesla Model Y Driving Back View Tesla

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2020-2023 Tesla Model Y Front View Driving
2020-2023 Tesla Model Y Dashboard
2023 Nissan Ariya Steering Wheel Design
2023 Nissan Ariya View Out Back
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