The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a new investigation into Tesla over steering control problems and loss of power steering in 2023 Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover utility vehicles.
The federal vehicle safety regulator said in a notice posted to the agency’s website that it has received a dozen complaints from drivers who experienced steering problems in their Teslas, including one who said it had caused a crash. The probe, which the NHTSA called a “preliminary evaluation,” could affect up to an estimated 280,000 vehicles in the U.S.
The Model Y became the world’s best-selling car in the first quarter of 2023, surpassing the Toyota Corolla and others. Tesla’s Model 3 is the company’s entry-level vehicle and the most affordable electric car it offers.
In 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors that the company was able to rewrite software in order to switch from one kind of chip to another, when needed, to cope with semiconductor shortages. About a year later, Tesla voluntarily recalled some of its Model S and Model X vehicles over power steering problems caused by a flawed software update, eventually fixing the issue with another software update.
Typically, an NHTSA probe will lead to an automaker investigating possible manufacturing or design defects and conducting a voluntary recall. The agency asks drivers to submit complaints by phone or online and uses those complaints with other data to determine when investigations are needed.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shares in the electric vehicle maker were trading down by about 1.7% on Tuesday morning.