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When Is A 'Recall' Not A Recall? When Tesla Updates Over The Air, Apparently

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2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Elon Musk might have been taking a risk by challenging the NHTSA on its recall terminology, but he does seem to have people on his side on the issue.

Not just our readers either, who were particularly vocal on the subject when details of the recall emerged the other day.

Former NHTSA administrator David Strickland told Bloomberg that Musk "has a point" in complaining about the use of the word recall for the recent Model S fixes.

Musk's assertion was that because necessary changes could be made wirelessly--barely requiring drivers to lift a finger, let alone drive to their local Tesla service center--the update shouldn't really be designated a "recall" by the NHTSA.

The Tesla Motors CEO made his opinion clear on Twitter, where he suggested the word recall "...needs to be recalled". The tweet itself has since been recalled...

The NHTSA issued a recall notice for the cars, which required a software update to fix an issue that could lead to overheating in the wall outlet, charging cord or adapter in the charging system. The update prevents fluctuations in power supply from causing overheating.

For Strickland though, Musk's comments are "partially right", and suggests Musk's objection to the use of the term recall for an over-the-air fix is potentially "precedent-setting".

Because Tesla is able to update its cars "from the sky", he says, it doesn't impose any inconvenience on the customer. Traditionally, a recall involves getting a letter from the automaker and then finding time to have the work carried out.

The Model S has only had one such "true" recall so far, for modifications to the rear seat mounting brackets, back in June 2013.

It's too early to tell whether the NHTSA will bow to changes in its terminology, but with ever more electric vehicles on the road and further potential for over-the-air changes, recalls really could be split into two paths in the future--the physical, and the virtual.

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