PARIS (AFP) - Tesla has recalled 675,000 cars in the United States and China over issues with the trunk and front hood of two models, raising new questions about the safety of the popular electric vehicle.
Chinese regulators announced the recall of almost 200,000 cars on Friday (Dec 31), hours after some 475,000 Tesla vehicles were flagged in the US.
The problems with the trunk and hood increase the risk of crashes, according to US and Chinese regulators.
Authorities said the repeated opening and closing of the trunk of the Model 3 can damage a cable for the rearview camera.
An issue with the latch assembly for the front hood of the Model S could cause it to open without warning and obstruct the driver's visibility, according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Tesla esimates that the problems affect 1 per cent of Model 3 vehicles and 14 per cent of the Model S recalled in the US, without causing any accidents so far.
Mass recalls are not rare in the auto industry.
Volkswagen had to take 8.5 million cars out of circulation in 2015 due to the Dieselgate scandal, in which the German company admitted tampering with millions of diesel vehicles to dupe emissions tests.
At least 100 million vehicles were recalled by car companies across the world in recent years due to a defect with airbags made by bankrupt Japanese group Takata.
Tesla's recall represents a quarter of the number of cars Elon Musk's young company has produced so far.
"It is a reality wake-up call for Tesla though, with a slap in the face welcome to the automotive world that is perhaps more complex than the smartphone industry that many like to compare it to," said German auto analyst Matthias Schmidt.
"After all, a dysfunctional car on four wheels can do a lot more potential damage than a dysfunctional iPhone," Schmidt said.
In June, Tesla recalled more than 285,000 cars in China over issues with its assisted driving software that could cause accidents.
The company also recalled thousands of Model 3 and Model Y vehicles earlier that month to inspect brake calipers for loose bolts.
In November, the NHTSA recalled nearly 12,000 Tesla cars due to errors with their communication software.
US safety officials are also investigating Tesla's Autopilot after identifying 11 crashes involving the driver assistance system The previous month, US highways safety regulators demanded details from Tesla on issues with its new autonomous system, building on a previously announced probe.
Tesla executives have downplayed the regulatory inquiries, saying they were to be expected with "cutting edge" technology and that they were cooperating "as much as possible."
The issues have been blights to an otherwise banner year for Tesla, as it joined the exclusive club of companies with a market capitalisation of US$1 trillion (S$1.3 trillion).
The company delivered a record 240,000 in the third quarter, and Tesla's billionaire chief Elon Musk was named Time magazine's person of the year.
Tesla's good fortune contrasted with other, traditional automakers that were heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of semiconductors that are key components in cars.
Trip Chowdhry, analyst at Global Equities Research consultancy, said the latest Tesla recall is a "non-event" as the company still holds a big advantage over its competitors.