Tesla Blames Short Sellers for Recall Petition, Says No Problem Exists

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
tesla blames short sellers for recall petition says no problem exists

Following confirmation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it will look into a petition calling on the agency to formally investigate 500,000 Tesla vehicles over reports of unintended acceleration, the automaker took to the internet to defend itself.

On Monday, Tesla issued a blog post to say the allegations against it are wrong. It believes claims of unintended acceleration are erroneous, pushed by someone hoping to scoop up Tesla shares at a lower price so they can be swiftly flipped.

The short-seller defense is a popular one with CEO Elon Musk. He’s previously called short sellers “value destroyers,” repeatedly suggesting that the practice should be made illegal. But it’s also in his interest to keep Tesla’s stock ludicrously high, which it is. Despite being several times smaller than either General Motors or Ford, Tesla’s market worth has surpassed their combined value.

While that should give the company little to complain about, it also makes it an attractive target for short sellers. Tesla’s market summary is loaded with peaks and valleys, but it always seems to climb in the end. Shorts looking to stop the manufacturer’s latest good stretch could have fabricated the petition in order to jump back in later at a lower price.

From Tesla:

This petition is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller. We investigate every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input, and in every case where we had the vehicle’s data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed. In other words, the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake.

While accidents caused by a mistaken press of the accelerator pedal have been alleged for nearly every make/model of vehicle on the road, the accelerator pedals in Model S, X and 3 vehicles have two independent position sensors, and if there is any error, the system defaults to cut off motor torque. Likewise, applying the brake pedal simultaneously with the accelerator pedal will override the accelerator pedal input and cut off motor torque, and regardless of the torque, sustained braking will stop the car.

Tesla is undoubtedly trying to cover its rump, but there are reasons to doubt claims of unintended acceleration. Back in 2010, a media storm broke out over Toyotas with a similar problem. While the company ultimately elected to perform a massive recall to inspect the cars’ electronic throttle controls and floor-mat positioning, most deep dives into the situation showed little to no underlying problems unique to Toyota vehicles. And practically all data indicating there may have been a legitimate issue show it on a much narrower scope than the media suspected. Meanwhile, auto journalists were busy blaming old and/or young people for being bad at parking — this outlet surely was.

The truth was elusive, which is why it’s prudent to exercise caution with the claims against Tesla. The NHTSA says it will investigate the claims further, and it should, but Tesla’s “problem” may be more complicated than a technical glitch.

Confusion continues to surround the automaker’s advanced driving aids, specially Autopilot. There’s no shortage of compilation videos showing drivers misusing the system, and Tesla has previously been faulted with overstating its effectiveness. Despite the manufacturer taking steps to mitigate this in recent years, the presumption that these cars can drive themselves has not abated. We still see plenty of people with the hands off the wheel, confident the car can handle whatever the road throws at it.

A portion of the reports the petition uses for ammunition are undoubtedly due to customers not fully understanding the vehicle’s functions. However, there are also numerous instances where Autopilot simply seemed incapable of navigating an exit ramp — or failed to see another vehicle. Again, crashes stemming from these issues are technically the fault of the driver if the claims of unintended acceleration turn out to be mistaken. But that’s still a problem, isn’t it?

Truth be told, we don’t want to give any advanced driving aid too much credit. These systems habitually drop out of service and don’t always behave as expected, regardless of the brand pushing them. That said, we hope the NHTSA provides some closure. Perhaps as a byproduct of this probe, the agency will reexamine advanced driving aids as a whole and address their role in confusing a consequential subset of motorists, even if Tesla itself ends up exonerated.

[Image: JL IMAGES/Shutterstock]

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3 of 22 comments
  • Tylanner Tylanner on Jan 22, 2020

    Self-driving aids need to be regulated to hell and back but that isn't a Tesla problem....

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Jan 22, 2020

      That's part of the problem, They're not "self-driving" aids and there's nothing self-driving about them. The SAE should not refer to the gadget as "Level 2 Autonomous". They're just adding to the confusion. It is a Tesla problem since lots more can be programmed/fitted to fully stop Autopilot misuse.

  • EBFlex EBFlex on Jan 22, 2020

    Ah lying and pointing fingers. Truly Musks only real talents.

  • Allamericanred Interesting that as a car design nut that hates most American Suv designs that I think it is a pretty good design that stands apart but is not odd. The color really impacts how it looks to me. Some just do not work
  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • NormSV650 I had a 2014 Vsport back in the day. It have a quiver feeling over some bumps in turns. Currently have a 2018 CT6 it is very solid and a great driver's car for the size.
  • MaintenanceCosts I saw my first IS500 out in the wild today (a dark-grey-on-black example) and it struck me that it was much more AMG-like than this product. (Great-looking and -sounding car.)
  • ToolGuy https://youtu.be/Jd0io1zktqI