Tesla Owners Still Surprised After a Decade of Their Accelerator Pedals Breaking

Get it? Accelerator pedals keep breaking? I’m not talking about regenerative here. There’s been a recurring pedal quality problem in Tesla manufacturing, and it’s trivial to see where and why. I’ll try to break it down.

Back in 2017 Tesla experienced an accelerator pedal defect controversy. It didn’t exactly grab mainstream headlines, although it probably should have.

Source: Tesla Motors Club

…just stomp on the pedal – like I do most often. When I punched it, the accelerator pedal broke off, regen kicked in hard, and I quickly coasted to the shoulder. I was in shock at what just happened. I have never seen anything like that before.

The Tesla owner said he was surprised because he had never seen thin plastic fail like that. Was it because he had never before owned such a low-quality car? His next comment sure sounded like someone lacking experience.

I assume this is very rare and hope it was some type defect in my pedal.

Why assume this pedal problem was rare? There was absolutely no reason in 2017 to assume it was rare.


In fact, there was ample evidence to assume the exact opposite (given conspicuous alerts by GM, Kia, Aston Martin… but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Within the same day (June 22) several people replied that the broken Tesla pedal was a well known and documented problem.

Not very rare, I’ve just seen these photos on facebook group last week.

Source: Facebook

Not very rare. In 2017.

Now back up three months earlier to March 2017, because Tesla owners had been busy arguing about whether fragile plastic pedals were a stroke of evil genius or a looming disaster (as if those are different things).

A guy complains on the forum that a Tesla pedal rates as a “FAIL” on his first inspection.

The other day, I reached down and “touched” the accelelerator pedal, and realized it’s made of light plastic. Not only is the accelartor pedal made of the plastic, but so is the arm that attatches it to the main vehicle. […] PLEASE TESLA, MAKE YOUR PEDALS OUT OF METAL… Cheap plastic pedals… FAIL.

Honestly this reads to me like a whistleblower making an anonymous complaint in the public forum to grab attention. March 2017, just weeks before pedals are found to be snapping off, he’s on target. But nobody really bites.

My first reaction was to see if this account had any friends or relatives in the factory. It had an insider tone. Like did he know this had been reported in 2013? Hold that thought. Remember 2013 because I’ll come back to it later in this story.

My second reaction was to wonder why that Tesla Motors Club account indicates it was “banned”. Kill the messenger?

And then I noticed the responses were… awful.

One owner argued the future of safety engineering would be based on the fact that thousands of defective design flaws haven’t been broken yet!

How many thousands of vehicles have come off the assembly line now? And not a single instance of a broken accelerator pedal you say? Do you think maybe the Engineers who designed it might have known what they were doing?

Claiming that any Tesla engineers know what they’re doing never, ever ages well.

Similarly, another forum account argues that the pedals were future-proofed, because they were meant to fail and force the car to “drive itself” when everyone least expects it … by design.

Maybe its because in the near future they dont want anyone to use the accelerator pedal and the car should be able to drive itself? Why waste extra money on something that might not get much use.

They don’t want anyone to use the pedal. Suddenly. Without options. Hey, it’s 2023 and “drive itself” is still a total fantasy. Imagine the pedal breaking 2017, then the owner sitting on the side of the road for six years… waiting for some promised “drive itself” feature that never arrives.

Uh. No.

I’m always worried the only people so super smart enough to buy a Tesla, the real obvious genius on the road holding a broken pedal in their hand, can’t even spell NHTSA.

Know what I mean?

An owner also jumps in to try some shame tactics on safety defect reporting. He says how dare someone suggest a dangerous flaw may exist, scaring people by sharing and caring.

I’m starting to feel bad for this guy… No need for you to relay this stress onto family and loved ones.

To be fair, not every Tesla owner has their head jammed all the way up their… Elon-gated Musk.

There’s also someone in June who posts a legitimate worry to the thread, very well stated.

This is absolutely ridiculous to have fragile pedals. Think about what would happen if it would break while overtaking another car on a narrow road with oncoming traffic … another headlight story for Tesla.

Now let’s move to 2020. Surprise!

I have a 2017 Model X P100d with 40,000 km (about 25,000m) and while on a road trip, while attempting to overtake a truck, my accelerator pedal snapped off. I quickly indicated and pulled over to the roadside.

Uncanny. A 2017 pedal, even.

Not a single “headlight story” has been found, however. Pedals kept breaking and Tesla owners kept acting like they had never heard about it before it happened to them too.

Forums here, forums there, no headlines. And no safety notices, no recalls. Did it cause accidents? Did people die?

It’s almost like the NHTSA could have stepped in harder, pardon the pun, after they were notified with a formal complaint filed in 2017. The dangers were obvious then.

…don’t want to get Tesla in trouble, but I do agree that this is a safety concern so I have taken your advice and filed a report on the NHTSA site. FYI, the complaint number is 1000599. Edit: My reasoning: I would hate for something bad to happen to someone else and I neglected to report it and could have helped prevent it.

Don’t want to get Tesla in trouble? There are so many hundreds of complaints by Tesla owners, the real risk is nobody pays attention to each one!

With that in mind a Tesla owner in 2018 posted video of his broken accelerator pedal to Reddit, and even that didn’t get much attention.

Source: Reddit

Forbes by 2019 did pick up the story finally, and alleged Tesla had been setup to hide defects and avoid accountability, made easier by formal complaints disappearing.

It’s not clear how many Tesla owners experienced this same problem since the automotive manufacturer repairs the vehicles they produce in service centers that they own. […] As a safety precaution, Yaninek filed a complaint with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, as did the Tesla owner who posted on the TMC forum. However, no record of the incident was found.

No record you say? No memory?

Hush hush.

Well here we are in 2023 hearing Tesla owners complain on Reddit yet again that their accelerator pedals are breaking.

Source: Reddit

Specifically, here’s the icing on a new Tesla owner’s cake:

Has anyone done this before? 2021 M3LR

Yes. The answer is yes. Many, many times before.

Now go complain to the NHTSA… again, and again, and again.

Here’s a good look at the design, for easy reference. Can you predict a break point on an injection molded sideways “U” subjected to thousands of newtons?

In case the reference isn’t clear, the “U” beam shape is best at handling lateral loads, which makes no sense on a pedal under vertical forces. And a thoughtless X pattern creates obvious points of material weakness where those vertical loads concentrate. It’s a predictable failure, from an unsafe design.

See any obvious problems with the Tesla design, such that their pedals under normal vertical load would break at the same weak spot? Source: “Numerical prediction of composite beam subjected to combined negative bending and axial tension.” August 2013, Journal of Engineering Science and Technology

The NHTSA in 2015 officially called the problem a “section of the accelerator pedal may bend and fracture” for a different design (Campaign Number: 15V123000, Kia Motors America, Units Affected 208,858).

I mean maybe you shouldn’t buy a Tesla if you are planning to actually use a fracturing accelerator pedal? Never seems to turn out well for family and loved ones.

Take a look at an Aston Martin accelerator pedal for comparison. Fibers appear “steered” structurally into stiffness and strength; obviously reaching far higher in safety and quality than Tesla’s thoughtless fragile “X” row stuffed into a sideways “U”.

Source: Aston Martin Vantage

A remarkable design difference. This isn’t new stuff, either. Composite material used for structural car pedal design goes back to at least the 1990s.

Why did I just point to an Aston Martin pedal, of all brands?

Because, for those really paying attention, Aston Martin was waaay ahead on this exact issue (e.g. different from lateral force GM field investigations). It warned other “luxury” brands as well as regulators and customers in 2013 what to investigate and prevent immediately.

The NHTSA documents show that in May of that year the company issued a critical safety notice to recall any and all accelerator pedals that might break.

The first recall for the problem was announced last May and was expanded in October and expanded again this week to include most of the sports cars built by Aston Martin since late 2007. The British brand announced the expanded recall on Wednesday after discovering a Chinese sub-supplier was using counterfeit plastic material in the pedals, which may break, increasing the risk of a crash.


Aston Martin found that Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co. Ltd., a Chinese subcontractor that molds the affected accelerator pedal arms, was using counterfeit plastic material supplied by Synthetic Plastic Raw Material Co. Ltd. of Dongguan, according to documents filed with the NHTSA.

A few broken pedals, an investigation, more investigation, and then a total recall by 2014. It highlighted dangers in composite part design, supply traceability, accountability, and manufacturing transparency.

That was how it was supposed to be done. Have you considered an Aston Martin BEV lately? A nice ride, and very trustworthy. Top quality… sometime in the future, if you know what I mean.

Again, as I hinted above, evidence has been floated that Tesla knew already in 2013 it was going to run into plastic pedal defects. Someone perhaps was even looking at the contrite/embarrassed Chinese plastic manufacturing and thinking about a cost saving opportunity for Tesla. China definitely was unhappy about loud fraud charges from Aston Martin, to say the least, and pushed out academic “research” to change the narrative:

Fracture failure analysis of automotive accelerator pedal arms with polymer matrix composite material

Despite such theoretical writing, real world defects developed with Tesla pedals such that public discussion in 2017 came years after initial discovery, as stated clearly in the Tesla Motors Club. Aston Martin really must have been watching the broken pedals next to sales numbers and scratching their heads by then.

According to Forbes it was all covered up intentionally through the notoriously opaque and anti-safety Tesla service model, but you have to also look at how Tesla curated widespread irrational exuberance into a bully brand very cozy with Chinese manufacturing.

No Tesla recall yet? Their pedals are still breaking unexpectedly during normal use (not lateral force, such as exiting the vehicle when stopped, or from obstructions) again and again like nothing has changed since 2013?

They fail at this basic stuff, and always have, because they can get away with it. No surprises, just the same bad ideas over and over, like a Ponzi on wheels. Everyone really should avoid buying, riding in or operating any Tesla.

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