Tesla And The NHTSA Settle Case Of “Goodwill” Agreement

For a few months, a discussion has been raging on the Tesla Motors Club forum about what one Tesla Model S owner says was an early failure of his electric car’s suspension arms. Today, the Daily Kanban published a detailed recount of that discussion, along with the more-damning accusation made that Tesla Motors made a deal with the original poster, gpcordaro, to keep things quiet. As DK’s headline says, “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”

Whether or not there’s actually a crime here we will leave to others to decide, but let’s get to the accusations. Basically gpcordaro claims that after a bit of back and forth to try to get his rusting suspension arms fixed in his 2013 Model S, Tesla did do the repairs but forced him to sign a “Goodwill Agreement” that stated, in part:

The Goodwill [the parts, services or other compensation] is being provided to you without any admission of liability or wrongdoing or acceptance of any facts by Tesla, and shall not be treated as or considered evidence of Tesla’s liability with respect to any claim or incidents. You agree to keep confidential our provision of the Goodwill, the terms of this agreement and the incidents or claims leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill. In accepting the Goodwill, you hereby release and discharge Tesla and related persons or entities from any and all claims or damages arising out of or in any way connected with any claims or incidents leading or related to our provision of the Goodwill. You further agree that you will not commence, participate or voluntarily aid in any action at law or in equity or any legal proceeding against Tesla or related persons or entities based upon facts related to the claims or incidents leading to or related to this Goodwill.

As of last Friday, Tesla said it will amend language in its so-called Goodwill Agreement that it asks customers to sign if the Silicon Valley electric car manufacturer pursues repairs that are outside a warranty claim, NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas told Reuters.

The compromise comes one day after NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said that it was looking into a report of a faulty Model S suspension reported by an owner who also made reference to a Goodwill Agreement. Rosekind called the nondisclosure agreement “troublesome.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk remained angry about the slights to his machines and suggested in a series of tweets that some individuals were aiming to tarnish the brand by reporting suspension failures to the federal agency using bogus vehicle identification numbers.

“NHTSA confirmed that they found no safety concern with the Model S suspension and have no further need for data from us on this matter,” Musk wrote. “Of greater concern: 37 of 40 suspension complaints to NHTSA were fraudulent, i.e. false location or vehicle identification numbers were used.”

His last tweet concluded: “Would seem to indicate that one or more people sought to create the false impression of a safety issue where none existed. Q is why?”

Further, it called the suggestion that it made customers sign NDAs “preposterous,” noting instead that in “rare situations” when repairs were performed unrelated to warranty issues a Goodwill Agreement is signed “to ensure that Tesla doesn’t do a good deed, only to have that used against us in court for further gain.”

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