Why does the Tesla Model X have those iconic falcon wing doors? Because Elon Musk hates the sliding doors found on every passenger van in the world. He decreed his SUV would not have such clunky features. As we all know by now, what Elon wants, Elon gets. Toward the end of 2013, Tesla invited 7 suppliers to submit proposals for hydraulic systems to open and close the unique doors. Ultimately, Tesla chose Hoerbiger Automotive Comfort Systems LLC, a well known German automotive parts supplier with offices in Auburn, Alabama.
For more than a year, Hoerbiger sweated and strained to create a hydraulic lift system that met all of Tesla’s engineering requirements. In the end, it was unable to do so. Tesla says the prototypes submitted either leaked hydraulic fluid or let the doors sag after they were fully open. It also says the system shut down frequently after overheating.
Tesla severed its relationship with Hoerbiger in May of 2015. It then designed its own electro-mechanical system and paid another supplier a substantial premium to put it into production. But Hoerbiger insists it is still owed money under its contract. This week, Tesla went to federal court, asking that Hoerbiger’s claims be disallowed. “We were forced to file this lawsuit after Hoerbiger decided to ignore their contracts with us and instead demanded a large sum of money to which they are not entitled,” a Tesla spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal in an email. “We will vigorously prosecute this case.”
The lawsuit claims “Tesla incurred millions of dollars in damages, including, but not limited to costs of re-tooling the entire vehicle in order to support a different engineering solution.” That partially explains why the Model X was so late getting into production. The company had other supplier issues as well, particularly with the unique monopost seats used in the center of the car. To maintain better control over the quality and timeliness of supplies, Tesla has embarked on a vigorous campaign to bring production of components in-house.