The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US has opened an investigation into the Tesla Model Y electric SUV over a potential issue that could see their steering wheels detach.

    In a report it opened on March 3, the NHTSA said it found two instances of 2023 Tesla Model Y vehicles in which the steering wheel came off. It’s not being a labelled a recall just yet.

    “The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is aware of two reports of complete detachment of the steering wheel from the steering column while driving in 2023 model year Tesla Model Y vehicles,” said the NHTSA in its report.

    “Both vehicles were delivered to the owners missing the retaining bolt (P/N 1036655-00-A) which attaches the steering wheel to the steering column.”

    “Both vehicles received an end of line repair requiring removal and re-installation of the steering wheel,” it added.

    “A friction fit maintained the connection between the steering wheel and the column splines during operation until separation.

    “Sudden separation occurred when the force exerted on the steering wheel overcame the resistance of the friction fit while the vehicles were in motion. Both known incidents occurred at low vehicle mileage.”

    At this stage it’s unclear where the two Model Ys were produced, nor how far spread the issue is. In the US they’re currently produced at the Fremont factory in California and at the Texas Gigafactory.

    The Tesla Model Y examples sold in Australia are produced in China. It’s unclear if this issue affects these models.

    This isn’t the only issue for which the NHTSA has been investigating Tesla.

    Last month the NHTSA recalled 362,758 Model 3, Model Y, Model S and Model X vehicles from 2016 to 2023 due to an issue with the Autosteer on City Streets feature.

    At the time it was said the problem would be resolved with an over-the-air update “in the coming weeks”.

    On the local front, deliveries of the hotter Tesla Model Y Performance have just begun after deliveries of the entry-level model started in August last year.

    The range also recently received an incremental price rise after a price cut earlier in the year.

    The 2023 Tesla Model Y currently starts at $69,300 before on-road costs for the entry-level RWD, and extends to $95,300 before on-roads for the Performance.

    Looking to the future, an refreshed version of the Model Y, codenamed Project Juniper internally, is reportedly set to go into production from October 2024.

    Two sources told Reuters that Tesla has asked suppliers for quotes for exterior and interior components of the Model Y update.

    It’s unclear just what changes are coming to the crossover, though the Model 3 update – codenamed Project Highland – looks set to receive visual updates to its front and rear ends.

    MORE: Everything Tesla Model Y

    Jack Quick

    Jack Quick is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne. Jack studied journalism and photography at Deakin University in Burwood, and previously represented the university in dance nationally. In his spare time, he loves to pump Charli XCX and play a bit of Grand Theft Auto. He’s also the proud owner of a blue, manual 2020 Suzuki Jimny.

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