Authorities examine scary Tesla claim
Tesla has slammed a petition claiming its cars may have a dangerous unintended acceleration problem as "completely false".
America's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating a petition suggesting there is a serious problem with Tesla vehicles that accelerate in inappropriate circumstances.
California resident Brian Sparks wrote to the NHTSA saying more than 100 Tesla owners publicly complained about the issue on the safety regulator's website, suggesting "there is a safety-related defect in Tesla vehicles".
Sparks' statement to the NHTSA quotes one Tesla owner as saying their car "violently exploded into full acceleration and could easily have killed people". Others said their "accelerated suddenly and crashed into a tree", "suddenly projected forward at full speed into a concrete wall", and "suddenly accelerated with extreme force… and collided with a tree and a truck".
Tesla responded with a statement saying "there is no 'unintended acceleration' in Tesla vehicles, claiming the petition was brought by a stock manipulator who stood to profit from a drop in the company's share price.
"This petition is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller," the statement says.
"We investigate every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input, and in every case where we had the vehicle's data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed.
"In other words, the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake."
Investors who bet against Tesla when the brand's share price dipped under $US180 in mid-2019 were stung when it climbed beyond $US540 this month.
Outspoken Tesla founder Elon Musk tweeted in 2018 that short-selling shareholders were "value destroyers" and that the practice "should be illegal"
The carmaker says it has reviewed the majority of complaints listed with the NHTSA, finding driver error was largely to blame.
"Over the past several years, we discussed with NHTSA the majority of the complaints alleged in the petition," it says.
"In every case we reviewed with them, the data proved the vehicle functioned properly."
Tesla vehicles represent some of the fastest-accelerating cars on sale, offering brisk responses to driver input.
The range-topping Model S sedan is capable of reaching 100km/h in 2.6 seconds, making it faster than most supercars in a short sprint.