U.S. highway safety regulators have opened an investigation into potential defects in certain Tesla models that may cause problems with steering.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tuesday it has opened a preliminary evaluation into 280,000 new Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles due to reports of inability to steer the vehicle and the loss of power steering.
The agency had received 12 complaints from owners alleging loss of steering control and power steering in 2023 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. Of those reports, five indicated an inability to steer the vehicle and seven cited loss of power steering resulting in increased effort to control the vehicle, according to NHTSA documents reviewed by FOX Business.
One Model 3 driver reported their car steering "felt stuck and slid off the road which resulted in crashing into a tree. Tesla features did not help stay in the lane or break in an emergency."
Another Model Y owner from Rocklin, California, complained of driving their vehicle on the highway on June 18, 2023, when "the electronic power steering suddenly stopped working."
"Luckily there wasn't a vehicle behind me, which avoided any accident," the driver wrote. "I had to use immense manual power on the steering to make the vehicle move to the side. Upon resetting, the steering was back to normal again. However, this seems to be a serious safety hazard and I cannot fathom the fact if it had happened on a busy freeway."
A driver in Alpharetta, Georgia, in June reported that a two-week-old Tesla Model Y was coming out of a shopping center when "suddenly steering wheel did not steer. It was hard and saw the alert. Went to very close to opposite side of traffic and some how made it to across the road inside the shopping center."
Tesla did not immediately respond when reached for comment by FOX Business.
This is the first step of a formal investigation to determine if the issue poses an unreasonable safety risk. NHTSA would need to upgrade the probe to an engineering analysis before it could demand a recall.
Last month, Tesla issued a voluntary recall of certain Model S and Model X vehicles in order to "inspect and ensure both first-row seat belts are properly connected to their respective pretensioner anchors."
The voluntary recall, which affects nearly 16,000 vehicles, comes after NHTSA launched an investigation into two complaints from Tesla owners that the front belts were not sufficiently connected at the factory.
FOX Business' Greg Norman and Reuters contributed to this report.