The DOJ Tesla probe has expanded to include EV driving ranges

Investigators have also asked for information on 'personal benefits' for executives or major shareholders.


The Department of Justice has expanded its investigation into Tesla, the company has confirmed. In an SEC filing, Tesla said the agency has issued subpoenas for information related to "personal benefits, related parties, vehicle range and personnel decisions." In January, Tesla confirmed that the DOJ sought details from the company regarding Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features for its electric vehicles.

According to Reuters and Consumer Reports, Tesla vehicles didn't hit Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) range estimates in road tests. The EPA tests vehicle ranges on rollers in a lab. The New York Times points out that all EVs have a lower range in colder temperatures, but even in warm weather, a Tesla Model Y ran out of juice at least 50 miles below its claimed range in Consumer Reports' tests.

Tesla, which has been penalized in other countries for failing to disclose that its EVs have shorter ranges in low temperatures, reportedly formed a special team that sought to quash complaints about the distance its cars can travel on a single charge. The team is said to have told customers who flagged such issues with their EVs that EPA range figures were merely predictions and that the range would be reduced due to battery degradation.

As the Times notes, when the term "related parties” is used in a regulatory filing, it often refers to senior management, company directors or major shareholders. Earlier this year, it was reported that Tesla opened an internal investigation to determine whether CEO Elon Musk dipped into company coffers to help fund a glass house he was building. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and SEC are said to have asked the company for information related to the house and other personal benefits afforded to Musk.

In its filing, Tesla noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the SEC and other local, state, federal and international regulators have also sought information from the company related to a variety of investigations and inquiries. Tesla does not have a PR department that can be reached for comment.

"To our knowledge, no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred," Tesla said in its SEC filing. "We cannot predict the outcome or impact of any ongoing matters. Should the government decide to pursue an enforcement action, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operation, prospects, cash flows, financial position or brand."