WASHINGTON — NHTSA, the nation’s top auto safety regulator, has opened an investigation into about 50,000 2022-23 Tesla Model X midsize crossovers after reports of the front seat belt failing to remain connected to the anchor pretensioner while driving.
The agency’s Office of Defects Investigation said it received two complaints describing an issue with the front seat belt anchor detaching in those vehicles.
Both vehicles were delivered to the owners with “insufficiently connected anchor linkages,” according to a NHTSA document made public Tuesday. Both incidents occurred at low vehicle mileage. Neither involved a vehicle crash.
Tesla front seat belts incorporate outboard pretensioners secured to the seat frame that are designed to be disconnected with a special tool, the agency said.
“The two allegations indicate that the connection failure occurred at this point,” NHTSA said. “In both cases, the pretensioner and the linkage were not properly connected during assembly, resulting in friction fit maintaining the connection between the two until eventual separation. The linkage and the pretensioner suddenly separated when the force exerted on the linkage overcame the resistance of the friction fit while the vehicles were in motion.”
The agency said it has launched the investigation — referred to as a preliminary evaluation — to assess the scope, frequency and manufacturing operations associated with the issue.
Most NHTSA investigations start as preliminary evaluations, in which agency engineers request information from the manufacturer, including data on complaints, injuries and warranty claims. The manufacturer also can present its view regarding the alleged defect and may issue a recall.
After the evaluation, NHTSA will either close the investigation or move into the next phase. If a safety-related defect exists, according to NHTSA, the agency may send a “recall request” letter to the manufacturer.