US opens inquiry on Tesla steering wheel detachments

U.S. auto safety officials have opened a preliminary inquiry on Tesla after the steering wheel on its cars completely detached in two newly delivered vehicles, according to a document reviewed Wednesday by AFP.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on March 4 opened a "preliminary evaluation" following two instances of "complete detachment" of the steering wheel while driving in 2023 Tesla Model Y vehicles, according to an agency posting.

Photo: Tesla

An inquiry into Elon Musk's electric auto company "has been opened to assess the scope, frequency and manufacturing processes associated with this condition," the posting said.

The incidents, which occurred at low driving speeds, did not lead to injuries, according to the NHTSA.

In both cases, the vehicles were delivered missing a retaining bolt that attaches the steering wheel to the steering column, the filing said.

The preliminary inquiry comes as the same agency probes Tesla's "Autopilot" driver-assistance program following several safety incidents.

Photo: Tesla

Tesla has also disclosed a Department of Justice investigation into its driver-assistance program.

The company is aggressively ramping up production to meet what Musk has described as essentially "infinite" demand for the vehicles.

Tesla's torrid growth has made Musk one of the world's richest people, but critics have blasted the company for deceptive marketing and questioned the safety of vehicles.

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