KEY POINTS

  • Soy-based insulation is blamed for an increase in rodent interest
  • Tesla won't fix the damage because soy-based insulation not a “defect” 
  • Several class-action lawsuit has been filed against automakers 

The cars of future have a problem from the past. Several Tesla owners across the country have reported their cars being grounded by an old enemy — rats. More frustratingly, the company has no answers.

Tesla refuses to cover damages caused by rodents gnawing at its soy-based wiring insulation. 

Sarah Williams, a 41-year-old physician in Manhattan, drove a 2018 Tesla Model 3 to work every day until the air-conditioner stopped running. Mechanics at an NJ dealership opened the glove compartment to check for damages, and a rodent fell out. The rodent had likely bitten through the internal wirings, reported the New York Post.

Having spent $5,000 in repair, Williams raised a complaint with Tesla and asked the carmaker to cover the damage but the company provided no help. 

"Most auto manufacturers use the soybean vs. oil in their wire insulation for newer vehicles because it is less expensive and better for the environment," Tesla Service Advisor Jose Solis replied to Williams. "The use of this material would not be considered a 'defect' in design or use... Considering there are too many factors outside of Tesla's control we cannot cover this under a warranty or repair."

Over the years, several class-action lawsuits have been unsuccessfully filed against automakers HondaToyotaKIA and Hyundai for refusing to fix rodent-caused damages. What attracted the rats was the soy-based insulation that replaced the petroleum-derived material, reported The Washington Post.

A Honda spokesman said in response to a 2018 lawsuit that “rodents are drawn to chew on electrical wiring in homes, cars or anywhere else where they may choose to nest. Honda believes that these class actions have no merit.” 

Car owners are now turning to each other for advice on how to keep rodents out of their vehicles.According to Toby Bateson, the UK-based inventor of RatMat, which “works like an electric fence on the floor,” his company has witnessed special interest from Tesla owners. He said to the Post, “We’re getting a lot of inquiries from Tesla owners because they seem to be vulnerable to the problem.”

New York City’s 311 hotlines for rodent complaints witnessed an 80% surge in March, from a year earlier, since the city reopened, reported Bloomberg.

US traffic safety regulators will demand more data on crashes from automakers like Tesla that use advance driver assistance technology to allow them to identify potential issues Tesla | Representational Image Photo: AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI