A brand new Tesla owner was shocked when his vehicle’s steering wheel snapped off while he was driving with his family.
The malfunction occurred on Jan. 29 as Prerak Patel and his wife and children were driving home from shopping at Woodbridge Mall.
Luckily, no cars were behind and Patel was able to pull over to the side by the divider, according to posts on his Twitter (@preneh24) account. Pictures from that day show the steering wheel in Patel’s Tesla Model Y SUV, which he bought just five days earlier, left hanging by only its wires.
“Family was excited to receive Tesla Y delivery on 1/24/2023. Was driving on highway and all the sudden steering wheel fall off, was lucky enough there was no car behind and I was able to pull on devider [sic],” he said in a tweet that was directed at Twitter and Tesla CEO Elon Musk
, among others.
Less than a week later, a Tesla service center billed Patel $103.96 to fix the faulty steering wheel.
“Am I responsible for manufacturing defect? It’s not even week and getting bill for faulty steering wheel. Isn’t it company’s responsibility to fix it? I would greatly appreciate refund and keep the car as we lost trust and family is not feeling safe driving it back,” Patel tweeted at Musk afterward.
After Patel requested a full refund, the service center removed the charge and informed him that while Tesla does not have a return policy, he should reach out to the sales and delivery department for other options.
Two days after the incident, on Jan. 31, Patel allegedly received a call from a Tesla dealership with an apology and two options: either keep his car with an assurance the steering wheel would not unexpectedly detach again or replace his old car with a new one.
He uploaded a poll to Twitter, and out of 6,120 total voters, 83% voted that he should get a replacement car.
Patel received his replacement Model Y car on Feb. 23, uploading two pictures of him and his wife in front of their new white SUV onto Twitter. That same day, Patel also said that he received a call from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defect investigation team, informing him that they were looking into the matter.
“My main intent is really to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other family, what happened to us,” Patel said, according to NJ Advance Media. “They should investigate this and make sure what they did wrong doesn’t happen again.”
The Model Y is Tesla’s most popular vehicle, and the 2023 model prices range from $50,000-$90,000.
U.S. auto safety regulators are now investigating Tesla after receiving two reports of steering wheels coming off while in operation.
The NHTSA says they will be looking into all 2023 models — an estimated 120,000 vehicles.
In both complaints of steering wheel detachment, a bolt that holds the wheel and the steering column was found to be missing, according to the agency. In a statement posted on Wednesday, the agency also said that in both cases the SUVs had low mileage.