Tesla could face NHTSA probe over 'sudden unintended acceleration'

Several complaints detail instances in which their Tesla vehicles lurched forward completely on their own

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened its review of a petition seeking an investigation into 500,000 Tesla vehicles with unintended acceleration issues.

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The petition, which cites 127 consumer complaints and 123 individual vehicles, asks the NHTSA to initiate a probe into  2012-2019 versions of the Tesla Model S, 2016-2019 versions of the Tesla Model X and 2018-2019 versions of the Tesla Model 3, according to the NHTSA's review.

"NHTSA has received a defect petition regarding claims of sudden unintended acceleration in certain Tesla Model S, Model X, and Model 3 vehicles. As is the agency’s standard practice in such matters, NHTSA will carefully review the petition and relevant data," the NHTSA told FOX Business in a statement.

In this Nov. 24, 2019, photo, a saleswoman talks about a Tesla Model 3 car at a Tesla showroom in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province. (Chinatopix via AP)

"The agency’s final decision will be posted in a closing resume on www.nhtsa.gov. It will also be published in the Federal Register," the statement added.

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Anyone can submit a petition for an investigation into a safety defect for the NHSTA to review. After an investigation into the petition, the Office of Defects Investigation informs the public as to whether the petition has been approved. If approved, a formal investigation is initiated, the agency said.

Many of the complaints in the petition cite "sudden acceleration," which could lead to a crash. Some complaints said the sudden acceleration happened while attempting to park in a garage or next to a curb; others said it happened while in traffic or while using driver assistance systems, according to Reuters.

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Several complaints detail instances in which their Tesla vehicles lurched forward completely on their own. In one instance, a Tesla Model S 85D was closed and locked when it apparently "started accelerating forward towards the street and crashed into a parked car," according to the driver, Reuters reported.

Tesla did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.

Electric zero-emission Tesla S driving on the street in Grodzisk, Poland - March 12, 2014. / iStock

NHTSA also approved an investigation into the automaker's Tesla Model 3 after it crashed into a parked firetruck, killing one passenger inside the Model 3 vehicle, Reuters reported Jan. 8.

The agency also announced in October that it is reviewing a petition asking to investigate 2,000 electric Teslas that were given a software update instead of being recalled after it was reported the cars had a potential battery defect that could cause fires.

David Whiston, an equity strategist for Morningstar covering U.S. autos, previously told FOX Business the risk had been around for a long time and he would not "anticipate it being a major problem for the company."

The automaker stock hit a new high Monday morning after receiving another price-target hike from Wall Street.

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Shares crossed the $500 level for the first time, putting further pressure on short-sellers, after the New York-based investment bank Oppenheimer raised its price target to $612 a share, the highest among Wall Street banks.

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FOX Business' Jonathan Garber contributed to this report.