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Tesla is perhaps the most famous and well-liked electric car company in the world, but Teslas aren’t perfect cars. Tesla, like any other company, has had its issues in the past, and sometimes those issues had to do with its cars. And now in the midst of a safety investigation, Tesla may have another big problem on its horizon.

The alleged defect in the Teslas

According to Consumer Reports, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or the NHTSA, is reviewing a petition which alleges that Tesla cars made since 2012 have a potentially dangerous defect that causes the Tesla to accelerate suddenly and unintentionally. The petition is composed of 127 complaints, and it alleges that 110 crashes and 52 injuries have been caused by this defect. 

Consumer Reports says that about 500,000 Tesla vehicles are involved in this complaint. That means that the majority of the Teslas that have been sold in the U.S. are involved with the investigation.

The NHTSA is currently only reviewing this petition, which gained traction online. The NHTSA declined to reveal the identity of the person who started the petition, as Consumer Reports said that it’s the NHTSA’s policy not to do that unless a real investigation begins. Consumer Reports also said that if the NHTSA found that the claims have merit, then the NHTSA will open a formal investigation into the issue. 

A potentially deadly defect

Consumer Reports detailed a couple of the complaints that were a part of the petition. Consumer Reports said that a Tesla owner from Nevada in 2018 encountered this defect twice in three months. One of those incidents resulted in $18,000 worth of property damage as well as cracked ribs.

Another incident happened to someone else in California in 2019. That person was using their Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving feature when they allege that their Tesla suddenly accelerated and crashed into the car that they were following. 

These incidences of sudden acceleration are somewhat similar to the infamous Toyota sudden acceleration issues from a decade ago, according to Consumer Reports. That issue led to countless crashes, injuries, and unfortunately, even deaths. Consumer Reports notes that Toyota’s sudden acceleration issues led to a huge recall campaign as well as a massive $1.2 billion fine on Toyota. 

What this investigation could mean for Tesla

Tesla responded to the news that the NHTSA was looking at this petition by saying that, “There is no unintended acceleration in Tesla vehicles,” according to Consumer Reports. Furthermore, Tesla alleges that this petition was started by a short seller, which is someone who’d make money if Tesla’s stock value goes down. 

This isn’t the first time that Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, has alleged that it has enemies who are trying to make a profit off of Tesla’s stock value crashing. Whether or not Tesla’s claim that this petition was actually started by one of its enemies remains to be seen. That said, Tesla, according to Consumer Reports, is confident that the NHTSA won’t find any fault in Tesla’s cars. 

Regardless, Tesla has a lot to lose if the NHTSA does decide that there is merit to the petition’s claims. Tesla’s stock value has been growing even despite this revelation, and Forbes reports that Tesla has recently passed a record-breaking $780 per share. If the NHTSA decides to formally investigate Tesla for unintended acceleration issues, then that stock price will drop and the Tesla short-sellers would get a victory. 

Asides from the economic aspect of it, there’s also the consumer confidence aspect of it. Teslas are notoriously safe when used properly, but any evidence that says otherwise will hurt Tesla fans’ perception of the company. For a growing carmaker like Tesla, it can’t afford to lose the confidence of its customers or else it will simply stop growing.