DETROIT — Tesla is recalling nearly all of the vehicles it has sold in the U.S. because some warning lights on the instrument panel are too small.
Documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators say the recall will be done with an online software update. It covers the 2012 through 2023 Model S, the 2016 through 2023 Model X, the 2017 through 2023 Model 3, the 2019 through 2024 Model Y and the 2024 Cybertruck.
The agency says that the brake, park and antilock brake warning lights have a smaller font size than required by federal safety standards. That can make critical safety information hard to read, increasing the risk of a crash.
Tesla has already started releasing the software update, and owners will be notified by letter starting March 30.
NHTSA says it found the problem in a routine safety compliance audit on Jan. 8.
Tesla has identified three warranty claims potentially related to the problem, but has no reports of crashes or injuries.
The recall comes as the agency steps up scrutiny of Tesla vehicles. On Friday it also posted documents saying it had upgraded a 2023 investigation of steering problems to an engineering analysis, a step closer to a recall.
In December, the agency pressured Tesla into recalling more than 2 million vehicles to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.
Documents said the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers.
The recall came after a two-year investigation by NHTSA into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were deadly.
The agency says its investigation found Autopilot’s method of making sure that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and can lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”
The added controls and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility,” the documents said.
But safety experts said that, while the recall is a good step, it still makes the driver responsible and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that Autopilot isn’t reacting to stopped vehicles. They say that Tesla’s driver monitoring system that relies on detecting hands on the steering wheel doesn’t stop drivers from checking out.
Tesla says on its website that its Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” systems cannot drive the vehicles, and that human drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.
In addition, Tesla is recalling more than 1.6 million Model S, X, 3 and Y electric vehicles exported to China for problems with their automatic assisted steering and door latch controls.
China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced the recall in early January. It said Tesla Motors in Beijing and Shanghai would use remote upgrades to fix the problems.
The recall is due to problems with the automatic steering assist function and applies to 1.6 million imported Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Ys.
When the automatic steering function is engaged, drivers might misuse the combined driving function, increasing a risk of accidents, the notice said.
The recall to fix the door unlock logic control for imported Model S and Model X EVs affects 7,538 vehicles made between Oct. 26, 2022 and Nov. 16, 2023. It is needed to prevent door latches from coming open during a collision.
Tesla was the top seller of electric vehicles in the world last year, but China’s BYD beat the company in the fourth quarter. BYD is the leader in the booming China market.