NHTSA investigating Lucid’s OTA recall fix for faulty heaters [Update]

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking a closer look at Lucid’s approach to addressing a recall involving its Lucid Air sedans and their potentially faulty high voltage coolant heaters (HVCH).

As we reported last month, the recall, which impacts 2,042 vehicles manufactured in 2022 and 2023, was issued over a defect with the HVCH supplied by Webasto AG. This component, critical for defrosting the windshield, has been found to fail, potentially compromising driver visibility and safety.

Instead of a traditional recall that would necessitate physical repairs at a service center, Lucid opted for an over-the-air (OTA) software update designed to alert drivers to the heater’s failure, but it does not address the issue related to the faulty physical part that can still fail.

This was in contrast to how another manufacturer using the same part handled the same issue. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) took a more traditional route with its I-Pace electric SUV by agreeing to pre-emptively replace the part for all affected owners before a failure can occur.

As a result, the NHTSA has launched on Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), questioning whether Lucid’s notifications are sufficient to guarantee safety before drivers can seek repairs.

The Office of Defects Investigation is concerned that by only providing a notification to drivers that their windshield defroster is not working, Lucid puts the driver in a situation where they could experience the failure during the same drive cycle as they receive the notification.  In this scenario, the driver is not aware they have a failed HVCH until they are operating the vehicle and need the defrost function prior to being able to have the vehicle serviced.


UPDATE 10:45am PT: After publishing our story Lucid reached out to Drive Tesla to provide an official statement, saying they intend to demonstrate that their approach is “sound and that customer safety is assured.”

NHTSA’s Recall Query understates the remedy being offered. Lucid’s approach introduces a new diagnostic software feature to conduct active remote monitoring for faults — even when the hardware at issue is not in use.  We use this capability in addition to electronically notifying customers when there is an actual lack of defrost capability.  Lucid intends to demonstrate that the analysis underlying this approach is sound and that customer safety is assured.

Lucid spokesperson

Lucid touted its approach as an innovative solution that allows the vehicle’s system to detect and notify the driver of the defect, a move the company defends as both efficient and effective. The NHTSA may end up disagreeing though, saying it is looking into the “adequacy and safety consequences” of Lucid’s approach. Based on their findings, they could force the automaker to replace the parts in all of the affected cars pre-emptively, just like JLR did.

You can read the full ODI Resume below.

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