Under the recall, which will begin on March 30, Tesla must notify owners of cars with the failure-prone touchscreens and replace a computer chip that controls the screen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers this a safety issue because without a functioning center screen, drivers lose the display for the car’s backup camera and controls for the window defroster and defogger.
“We note that your report states that Tesla believes that this matter does not have a safety risk,” read the letter, signed by Alex Ansley, chief of NHTSA’s Recall Management Division. “In our view, this statement has no force or effect in terms of Tesla’s obligation to undertake and complete the recall, and NHTSA does not agree with it.”
Thus far, Tesla has been charging customers to upgrade or replace the screens, but the costs of official recall repairs are supposed to be absorbed by the vehicle manufacturer. Tesla said in its letter to NHTSA that it will make the recall repairs for free and will offer a discount on upgraded screen hardware.
Tesla is also required to regularly report to NHTSA on its progress in repairing all 135,000 touchscreens. Automakers face fines for not repairing recalled vehicles quickly enough.