German newspaper Handelsblatt claims that an unnamed informant handed over 100 GB of internal Tesla data with thousands of customer complaints that were allegedly swept under the rug by the company.
“The data paints the picture of an electric car pioneer who seems to have far greater technological problems than previously known,” wrote the outlet’s editor-in-chief, in a separate letter, explaining the decision to release the documents. “With its Autopilot, for example. The Tesla files contain thousands of reports about complications with the driver assistance systems. Complaints of Tesla vehicles suddenly braking at full speed. Or accelerate suddenly,”
The outlet reports that the files it received contain more than 2,400 customer complaints relating to sudden acceleration, 1,500 relating to unintended braking, and more than 1,000 to crashes. In a table of incidents where driver assistance technologies were involved, there are more than 3,000 entries.
Read: Tesla’s Reputation In The U.S. Takes A Beating While Ford And GM Improve Year-Over-Year
Most of the incidents stem from the U.S., which is hardly a surprise since this is the automaker’s largest market by volume. However, included in the leaked files are complaints from Europe and Asia, as well.
Perhaps more concerning than the incidents themselves is Tesla’s response to them. In the six months between receiving the documents and publishing them, Handelsblatt was able to get in touch with owners who claimed that the automaker seemed more invested in protecting itself than addressing the issues of its customers.
The mechanisms behind this are laid out in the leaked files. They show that employees were directed to only provide information to customers verbally and to never send them a copy of an incident report or complaint, as these were for internal use only. They were even advised not to leave voicemails with customers.
Tesla did not immediately respond to our request for comment on this story. However, in an email shared with Electrek, Tesla’s managing counsel for litigation, Joseph Alm, said that the company plans to take legal action against the parties involved in the leak.
“The possession of [illegally obtained] data itself without a proper justification breaches, among other things, data protection law,” Alm wrote in the email. “And mishandling this information subjects recipients, such as Handelsblatt, to liability for violation of trade secrets, data protection law, and handling stolen data, among other things.”
The email also reveals that Tesla believes the information was released by a “disgruntled ex-employee […] right before he left Tesla.”
Tesla’s legal position notwithstanding, the leak looks bad for the automaker. Its advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot, is currently under investigation by federal authorities in the U.S., where the secretary of transportation recently confirmed that it has “real concerns” about the system. A recent report also indicated that the brand’s reputation among consumers has suffered enormously over the last 12 months.