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Tesla recalls electric Roadsters

May 28, 2009 |  5:42 pm

Electric car maker Tesla Motors said today it is recalling all 345 of its Roadster sports cars produced before April 22 so they can be inspected for a possible suspension problem.

Tesla blamed the problem on bolts that were improperly installed on the rear chassis “of a small percentage” of Roadsters by British automaker Lotus. The Roadsters, which sell for $109,000, are assembled in Britain by Lotus and then shipped to California, where Tesla installs the cars’ batteries and electric powertrain.

Tesla Roadster Tesla said no accidents had been reported as a result of the defect, which it said was unrelated to the Roadster’s all-electric powertrain.

Lotus is recalling 27 of its 2009 Elise and Exige sports cars with the same suspension problem, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “If the problem is not addressed promptly, the driver could lose control of the vehicle, resulting in a crash,” the agency said in its recall notice.

Lotus could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Tesla, based in San Carlos, Calif., has delivered almost 500 of the two-seat Roadsters. The company said it found the problem after an owner reported “uncharacteristic handling.”

The company said it would send technicians to customers’ homes to make the needed repairs free of charge, or pick up the cars and bring them into a service center to do the work.

“We plan to do everything we can to address this matter swiftly and keep customers satisfied,” said Greg Zanghi, Tesla’s director of service and parts operations. The company wouldn’t disclose how much the recall would cost.

Although Tesla has struggled at times to get its electric-car program on the road, the recall shouldn’t pose a major setback to the company, said Karl Brauer, editor of auto website

“They’re not selling this car to hundreds of thousands of consumers who are going to be impatient or annoyed because of these problems,” Brauer said. “They’re selling it to hundreds of people who think it’s the coolest car in the world and are buying it to make a statement.”

The recent decision by German auto giant Daimler — maker of Mercedes-Benz — to buy an almost 10% stake in Tesla should help soften the financial consequences of the recall, he added.

—Martin Zimmerman

Photo: Tesla Roadster

Credit: Associated Press