A worker checks Tesla Model Y electric vehicles loaded onto a freight trailer at the Tesla Inc. Gigafactory in Gruenheide, Germany, on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. Tesla CEO Elon Musk played down how much impact his tweets have on the company’s stock price as he defended himself at a trial in San Francisco federal court on Friday over his 2018 tweet about taking the electric car-maker private. Photographer: Liesa Johannssen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into Tesla after it received two complaints that steering wheels detached in 2023 Model Y vehicles while people were driving.
The preliminary evaluation covers more than 120,000 vehicles, according to an agency filing.
Shares of Tesla were down 3% in premarket trading Wednesday.
Both incidents occurred at low vehicle mileage, and both cars received an end of line repair requiring removal and reinstallation of the steering wheel. Regulators said the steering wheels came off when the force exerted on them overcame the resistance of the friction fit while the cars were in motion.
“Both vehicles were delivered to the owners missing the retaining bolt which attaches the steering wheel to the steering column,” the NHTSA said.
The investigation will assess the “scope, frequency, and manufacturing processes associated with this condition,” the agency said.
Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In one complaint filed with the NHTSA, a driver said he bought his Model Y on Jan. 24, and that the steering wheel fell while he was driving it with his family in Woodbridge, New Jersey on Jan. 29.
He said he was “lucky” there was no car behind him and that he was able to pull on the divider, according to a tweet he included in the complaint.
In a follow-up tweet, the driver said he “lost trust” in Tesla and did not feel safe driving his car home. He later said the Tesla dealership called him and apologized, and the driver shared a photo of a replacement Model Y that he received on Feb. 23.
The investigation into Tesla is a first step before the NHTSA could demand a vehicle recall.