Tesla sues contractor for faulty Model X door prototype

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk promised to have the Model X SUV out to consumers two years ago. It’s just reaching driveways.

A suit filed Tuesday in federal district court alleges at least one problem causing Model X delays — the hinges to open the SUV’s falcon-wing doors. Tesla claims a faulty prototype required the company to redesign the system that opens and shuts the doors.

Tesla claims Hoerbiger Automotive Comfort Systems, a Swiss company, agreed to develop hydraulic hinges for the unusual doors. The two companies worked in tandem to engineer, design and test the hydraulic system between March 2014 and May 2015.

According to the suit, the test system leaked oil, overheated and stayed shut, and failed to open at the speed or symmetry demanded by the automaker. As a result, Tesla said it went with more traditional engineering to solve the challenge.

Tesla claims it paid Hoerbiger $3 million for the work and materials, and does not owe the company more. The suit seeks to end Hoerbiger’s claims for additional money to pay for their investment.

A Hoerbiger spokesperson declined to comment on the suit.

Tesla has shipped about 200 Model X signature editions to customers since October.

 

 

Photo: Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the falcon wing design of the new Model X SUV crossover in its debut from the floor of its plant in Fremont, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. (File/LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

 

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  • Dag Johansen

    This lawsuit is quite the admission that the Falcon-wing doors were a bad idea that they should not have pursued. They probably delayed the Model X by more than a year. Now they can make the argument that they now have a great implementation for the doors, all the problems have been solved, and that it is full speed ahead. But I think people could not be faulted for being a bit skeptical and wondering if switching to an electronic system instead of a hydraulic system cured all of the problems. There could still be problems over time as things get out of alignment, thermal expansion, wear & tear, and other forces of entropy affect the doors.

  • Dag Johansen

    This lawsuit is quite the admission that the Falcon-wing doors were a bad idea that they should not have pursued. They probably delayed the Model X by more than a year. Now they can make the argument that they now have a great implementation for the doors, all the problems have been solved, and that it is full speed ahead. But I think people could not be faulted for being a bit skeptical and wondering if switching to an electronic system instead of a hydraulic system cured all of the problems. There could still be problems over time as things get out of alignment, thermal expansion, wear & tear, and other forces of entropy affect the doors.

  • Dag Johansen

    This lawsuit is quite the admission that the Falcon-wing doors were a bad idea that they should not have pursued. They probably delayed the Model X by more than a year. Now they can make the argument that they now have a great implementation for the doors, all the problems have been solved, and that it is full speed ahead. But I think people could not be faulted for being a bit skeptical and wondering if switching to an electronic system instead of a hydraulic system cured all of the problems. There could still be problems over time as things get out of alignment, thermal expansion, wear & tear, and other forces of entropy affect the doors.

  • Dag Johansen

    This lawsuit is quite the admission that the Falcon-wing doors were a bad idea that they should not have pursued. They probably delayed the Model X by more than a year. Now they can make the argument that they now have a great implementation for the doors, all the problems have been solved, and that it is full speed ahead. But I think people could not be faulted for being a bit skeptical and wondering if switching to an electronic system instead of a hydraulic system cured all of the problems. There could still be problems over time as things get out of alignment, thermal expansion, wear & tear, and other forces of entropy affect the doors.

  • Luxman

    As a long-time car enthusiast and mechanical engineer, I really think the Falcon-wing doors on X model would be a warranty nightmare for Telsa years to come and it can even bring down the entire company. Why go through all these troubles to have fancy doors that no customers really demanded on the X model….I don’t know but mostly likely that’s what Elon wanted and nobody could say no to him. I’ve seen the door operates in person and it’s a really cool stuff in terms of pure technical point of view. But as an everyday practicality, would you wait for 20~30 sec for the darn thing to open up/down every time you get in and out of X model? Nobody, especially crazy kids these days, has patience for that. And at extreme case, door will shear off any kid’s finger if it gets in between near the door hinge point. I know the doors have all the sensors and force sensor, but it takes so little force to cut off a tiny kid’s finger with such a heavy door with powerful motor and hydraulic power. I know chance of any serious finger injury is low but it takes just one case for mandatory recall. Instead Telsa should gone with “suicide” rear doors similar to the Porsche’s E mission concept electric car…it’s cool and practical at the same time. http://www.porsche.com/microsite/mission-e/international.aspx

    • Sean Leary

      The idea wasn’t just to be cool, the reason for the design was to make the experience fundamentally better. A suicide door is all style, no substance.
      The Falcon doors shelter the occupant from the elements above while loading/unloading, provide a larger opening for ingress/egress, while also using a smaller footprint than a traditional door opening on a vertical axis.
      Not to mention, those crazy kids you speak of all wait the same amount of time for power sliding doors, on the quintessential family hauler- the minivan.
      Though you can certainly jump through the logic hoops in order to praise the latest promised concepts from Porsche or Audi. I just hope they can fufill their promises to almost match Tesla’s peformance of today, with their technology of the future, someday- when battery technology becomes available to them.
      There’s a lot of promises coming from those companies, but so far their forays into electric have been hybridized or disappointing. (the e-Golf, A3 etron anyone?)

      • Luxman

        There are reasons why Falcon-type doors have not been used widely for auto makers. Beside the obvious high cost and long development time, it has couple serious drawbacks.

        First, rear occupants can get trapped if the car turns upside down in a serious accident. Tesla argued that rear passengers can still escape through the front doors. Maybe so, but when the seconds count after a serious accident, this can have a life and death impact. And what if both front passengers are unconscious and cannot open the front doors?! And Tesla claims model X’s extreme lower center of gravity make the car turning upside very unlikely. Maybe so, but the car can still roll down the cliff and still flips if gets hit hard from the side. Mercedes SLS which has the same gull wing doors couldn’t pass the US government safety rule, so Mercedes added explosive bolts that automatically blows the doors off in case the car turns upside down.

        Second, model X cannot have any kind of roof mounted rails which seriously compromises its SUV function. Most family with kids really want the option to put extra stuffs on the roofs; like bikes, skis or the roof mounted containers for a long family trip. I know model X offers rear hitch mounted bike kit, but not having a root mounted versatility on a SUV is a deal breaker for many families.

        Even Tesla acknowledged that developing this super complicated doors on the model X caused 1 to 2 years schedule delay, not too mention well going over budget. Most model X buyers would been perfectly happy with a SUV with normal doors that would avoided the schedule delay and lower the MSRP by at least 10~20%. Well, maybe not…some Tesla owners still prefer to show off their fancy Falcon doors.

        This complicated doors would haunt Tesla year to come in terms of warranty issues and even some serious safety recalls. Trust me, things work perfectly during prototype and small lot initial production. The real problem will only rise after years later in high volume production, and after the doors get used and abused by many.

        • Sean Leary

          I hear your points- however….
          Tesla owners need a differentiating factor to purchase- mileage isn’t going to be be driving factor it was during $4 gas- the doors will help provide the wow factory a luxury buyer wants.
          As far as recalls- jeep is recalling its yacht shifter because idiots can’t learn to use it and leave the car in gear. We cannot continue to stifle innovation by bowing to the lowest common denominator. If I wanted pure safety- I wouldn’t drive a tank of explosive material around at triple the speed my body alone can attain.
          Bravo for innovation and reaching for new ideas.

 
 
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