Tesla issues software update for cars in China to add regenerative braking options, but it’s being framed as a recall

Tesla has issued what is being referred to as a recall for over 1.1 million cars in China. Despite the magnitude of the so-called recall, it will not require a physical service visit to have parts replaced but will instead be taken care of with a simple over-the-air (OTA) software update that will add features that have already rolled out in North America, without the need for a “recall.”

According to China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), the update will be sent to 1,104,622 vehicles, including Model S, Model 3, and Model X vehicles imported from the US, as well as Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built at Giga Shanghai. The affected vehicles were produced between January 12, 2019 and April 24, 2023.

The reason behind the OTA recall is regenerative braking, in which the affected vehicles do not have the option to select how much regenerative braking is applied. Tesla removed this option in North America in 2020, but is just reintroducing it in the latest software update, which is still rolling out to the fleet in Canada and the US.

Along with no regenerative braking options, the software update will also address pedal misapplication, or as it is often mistakenly referred to as “sudden unintended acceleration,” something that has happened several times in China. When the driver depresses the accelerator pedal for an extended period, a reminder will appear on the screen. There was no mention of how much force is required, for how long the pedal must be depressed before the reminder appears, or what exactly the reminder message will be.

The reason it is being called a recall is because all of this started from a defect investigation launched by SAMR, who made the following announcement on Friday. (translated from Chinese)

This recall was carried out when the State Administration for Market Regulation initiated a defect investigation. Affected by the investigation, Tesla Motors (Beijing) Co., Ltd. and Tesla (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. plan to use the vehicle remote upgrade ( OTA) technology to push newly developed functions for vehicles within the scope of the recall, so as to reduce the number of cases caused by long-term deep-dive problems. Depressing the accelerator pedal leads to a collision risk caused by excessive speed.

Features include: (1) on vehicles that do not have a regenerative braking intensity selection, provide an option to allow the driver to select the regenerative braking intensity; (2) adjust the factory default state of the vehicle regenerative braking strategy; (3) Alerts the driver when the accelerator pedal is depressed deeply for an extended period of time.

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