Roof-hinged “falcon doors” are one of the Tesla Model X’s standout features, but may have also been a big contributor to the production delays that pushed the electric crossover’s launch back almost two years. Now, Tesla is blaming a former supplier for what it calls a faulty design.
The carmaker filed a lawsuit against German supplier Hoerbiger Automotive Comfort Systems in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. The suit alleges that Hoerbiger misrepresented its ability to design the “falcon doors,” forcing Tesla to switch to a new supplier at the last minute, reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
Tesla claims it paid Hoerbiger to design hydraulic devices to lift the doors, after the company won a competition for the contract. But when the German firm delivered prototypes, they leaked oil and caused doors to sag, according to the lawsuit. Tesla claims the company is now seeking additional payments it is not entitled to. It paid Hoerbiger $3 million for the work it did, and does not believe it owes the supplier any more money.
In May 2015, Tesla gave up on Hoerbiger, and hired another supplier to design door-lifting mechanisms for the Model X, the lawsuit says. It claims Tesla “incurred millions of dollars in damages,” including the cost of “re-tooling the entire vehicle” to accommodate the new supplier’s design. Tesla claims it also had to pay the new supplier a premium to get the job done quickly.
Tesla certainly didn’t need any problems as it worked to get the Model X ready for production. The electric crossover was first shown in January 2012, and Tesla originally hoped to put it on sale in December 2013. But various issues meant the first vehicles weren’t delivered to customers until the end of September 2015. Very few units have likely been delivered since then, as Tesla is still ramping up production.