The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into a design defect in Tesla's Model S battery cooling system, the Los Angeles Times reports .
This follows Business Insider's investigation into the cooling system, which found that starting in 2012, Tesla knowingly installed systems with the potential to leak coolant into the battery. Those leaks, in turn, could cause the battery to go dead or leave a residue that could contribute to a fire.
The NHTSA told the LA Times in a statement that is "well aware of the reports regarding this issue and will take action if appropriate based upon the facts and data." It also noted that auto manufacturers are obligated to let the NHTSA know within five days of being aware of a safety related defect in a vehicle. Then they're supposed to issue a recall.
Neither Tesla nor NHTSA responded to Business Insider's request for comment in time for this article's publication.
Business Insider's investigation found that back in 2012 Tesla was grappling with fixing the cooling system while trying to get Model S cars to customers as soon as possible. Two different third party tests found that the aluminum used around the end fitting of the system was weak, and that tiny pinholes would form where the male and female parts of the end fitting were supposed to be brazed together.
One employee described the part as "hanging by a thread" during August of 2012, according to internal documents reviewed by Business Insider.
Tesla continued to find leaking coils in various stages of production through the end of 2012, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider. Some leaks were found late enough on the production line to be described as a "critical quality issue," or were found to have leaked liquid into the battery pack, according to internal emails sent in October 2012, which were viewed by Business Insider. The problem was then flagged for senior management, documents indicate.
But at that point cars were already heading out to customers, and it's unclear when Tesla fixed the cooling system.
Check out BI's full investigation into the Model S battery design issues.