Tesla Motors Inc. said it’s conducting its largest-ever recall of all 90,000 Model S cars because of a single report of a front seat belt not being properly connected. The shares fell.
“Tesla recently found a Model S in Europe with a front seat belt that was not properly connected to the outboard lap pretensioner,” the company said in an e-mail to customers Friday. “This vehicle was not involved in a crash and there were no injuries. However, in the event of a crash, a seat belt in this condition would not provide full protection.”
Tesla began delivering the Model S to customers in June 2012. The company doesn’t have model years but all variants of the vehicle, including the P85D, are affected by the voluntary recall. Tesla shares slid 1.9 percent to $217.59 at 2:38 p.m. New York time.
The recall will raise questions for those who are bearish about the stock, “but we estimate the cost is not material and shows Tesla’s heightened focus on safety,” said Ben Kallo, a Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst who rates the shares neutral. “Tesla has made safety a focus in the design and development of both the Model S and Model X” sport utility vehicle.
Tesla was alerted to the seat belt issue by a customer in Europe two weeks ago and moved to inspect 3,000 vehicles and its assembly process. The Palo Alto, California-based company said it has found no other issues, but wants owners to bring their cars in to make sure the seat belts are properly connected. They are being advised to book an appointment for the inspections.
“In early November, a customer sitting in the front passenger seat turned to speak with occupants in the rear and the seat belt became disconnected,” a Tesla representative said. “The seat belt is anchored to the outboard lap pretensioner through two anchor plates that are bolted together. The bolt that was supposed to tie the two anchors together wasn’t properly assembled.”
With just the one confirmed incident, Tesla may not have been required to do a recall, but that isn’t what drives the company’s decision-making, said Diarmuid O’Connell, the company’s vice president for business development.
“Our North Star for these things is what’s right for the customer,” he said in Detroit, where he spoke to the Automotive Press Association.