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Tesla founder in standoff with safety regulator over power adapter ‘recall’

WASHNINGTON — Electric car maker Tesla Motors co-founder and billionaire Elon Musk is sniping over semantics with the industry’s regulator, the latest step in what he calls a crusade to revolutionise the car.

The flap began as the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started investigating battery fires in the $70,000-and-up Tesla Model S sedan last year. It escalated after the agency listed as a recall Tesla’s steps to reduce fire risks during recharging. An exasperated Mr Musk took to Twitter last week, saying “the word ‘recall’ needs to be recalled”.

As Mr Musk looks to start selling into the safety-conscious mass market within three years, he wants to dispel any notion that owning a Tesla is inherently dangerous. Yet by sparring publicly with the traffic safety administration, he risks rankling a regulator that could force costly alterations or fine Tesla millions of dollars for not reporting what it considers safety defects.

“This is just the kind of reaction you get from someone who is essentially a rookie in the car business,” said Kelley Blue Book executive editorial director Jack Nerad. “You will not hear a seasoned auto executive knock the (administration).”

Car makers typically work behind the scenes to negotiate with the administration on the scope and timing of recalls. For the largest vehicle makers, these efforts can result in recalls covering fewer model years or applying only to vehicles made in certain factories, narrowing the cost to them.
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