US vehicle safety regulators have begun an investigation into Tesla’s Model Y SUV after receiving two complaints that the steering wheel could lock up while driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the investigation covers an estimated 120,000 vehicles through the 2023 model year.
The agency says that in both cases the Model Y was delivered to customers with a missing bolt that holds the wheel to the steering column. A friction fit kept the steering wheels in place, but they separated when force was applied while the SUV was being steered.
The agency said in documents posted on its website on Wednesday that both incidents occurred when the SUV’s mileage was low.
Investigators look at how often the problem occurs, how many vehicles were affected and at Tesla’s manufacturing process. The Model Y is Tesla’s best selling vehicle.
Messages were left seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department.
In a complaint filed with NHTSA, an owner said he was driving with his family on Route 1 in Woodbridge, New Jersey, when the steering wheel suddenly stopped on Jan. The owner wrote that there were no cars behind him, and he was able to pull over towards the road divider. No one was injured in the Tesla purchased on January 24.
The complaint contains a link to a Twitter posting by the owner that includes a video of the detached steering wheel and photos of the white Tesla being pulled.
First, a Tesla service center gave the owner a cost estimate of $103.96 to fix the problem. The service center apologized in text messages posted on Twitter.
When the owner wrote that he had lost faith in Tesla and asked for a refund, the service center removed the charge and wrote that Tesla does not have a return policy, but he can reach out to the sales and delivery team.
The man was later given the option of keeping the car or replacing it with a new one, according to his post on Twitter.