Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company was wrong to throttle the battery voltage of 1,743 Model S sedans. Tesla agreed to pay $1.5 million in settlement claims to the owners of these vehicles, giving them a $625 check each.
Earlier this week, it was reported that an Over-the-Air update was dispatched by Tesla in May 2019 that temporarily reduced the maximum voltage of Model S sedans. The root cause for the reduction in battery voltage was due to an incident in Hong Kong, China, where a Model S caught fire. The update had the intention of improving the longevity of the Model S and Model X batteries through a slight revision of the thermal management system in the battery pack. However, the reduction in voltage also affected charging speed. David Rasmussen, a Model S owner who was affected by the update, said in court in August 2019 that Tesla’s update had severely affected the performance of the battery.
Tesla went on to issue another update in March 2020 that brought the voltage on the affected Model S sedans back to its original levels. Filings this week from a CNBC report indicated that 1,552 of the Model S vehicles affected by the update have already had the battery packs restored to original levels. 57 other vehicles received a full replacement of the battery pack. The remaining owners should see their battery be restored to the maximum voltage over time.
While the reason for the pullback in voltage was a safety precaution aimed at reducing the possibility of a vehicle fire, CEO Elon Musk admitted that the move was wrong, he said on Twitter. “If we are wrong, we are wrong,” Musk said. “In this case, we were.”
Musk, who has assumed the role of Tesla’s CEO since 2008, five years after joining the automaker, is one of the few executives that regularly communicates with consumers through his social media. Because of this, Musk tends to be very transparent, especially when discussing issues related to the growth of Tesla or product updates. Admittedly, this was a shortcoming of the company, and despite it being a safety issue, Musk highlights Tesla’s policy to be truthful and honest with consumers.
“Tesla policy is never to give in to false claims, even if we would lose, and never to fight true claims, even if we would win,” he added.
Tesla is not only settling with the numerous Model S owners for $1.5 million. The company is also required to “maintain diagnostic software for in-warranty vehicles to notify owners and lessees of vehicles that Tesla determines may need battery service or repair for certain battery issues,” allowing owners affected by the pullback in voltage to monitor the state of the vehicles when necessary.