Tesla has found itself in the headlines for a handful of design maladies over the years, but those were issues primarily related to its battery and self-driving technologies. This time, however, the company is gaining attention for something it likely never expected: The design of the rear-hatch on its Model S car led someone to mistakenly believe a kidnapping was underway.
The incident was triggered when a Tesla owner in Santa Clarita, California, was spotted loading her kids into the back of the car, which has rear-facing seats. But because of the design of the car, which has a hatchback trunk opening, the accuser couldn’t tell that there were seats in the back of the car. At that point, according to the Santa Clarita Valley Signal, someone called the cops, and the Tesla owner was detained at gunpoint until said cops realized what was going on.
“The new Teslas have a weird back seat and when they put the (child) in the back seat it looked like they were putting them in the trunk,” Lt. Rob Hahnlein told the Santa Clarita Valley Signal before explaining that “we’re not Tesla experts.”
It’s worth pointing out that much of this incident boils down to general human incompetence, especially considering these seats have been in Tesla cars since 2013 without incident. And rear-facing seats are nothing new, having featured in a number of cars over the years, typically station wagons. (Remember your parents’ Volvo?)
But even if this could have been avoided with a more discerning eye, the fact remains that the design of the car’s rear was enough to plant even a seed of doubt, that alone should set off a red flag inside the Tesla camp when it comes to future design refinements. Given that people aren’t used to seeing other people loaded into the back of a car with a form factor like the Model S, there’s an argument to be made that some effort should have been taken to make the seats more visible.
Then again, Tesla has had enough trouble putting users first when it comes to its products.