Hoerbiger in Court Tesla Sues Swiss Firm Over Car Doors

Tesla Motors is suing Swiss firm Hoerbiger, accusing the car parts manufacturer of supplying it with faulty components for the wing doors of its new Model X car.
Tesla boss Elon Musk, and the Model X with its "Falcon Wing" doors.

A little known Swiss metal components firm, Hoerbiger, has fallen out of grace with Tesla Motors, the Californian maker of electric cars.

In a law suit filed on Tuesday, Tesla Motors accused Hoerbiger, which has most of its European plants in southern Germany, of failing to deliver properly functioning parts for the wing doors of the new Model X.

“Although Hoerbiger had represented it could produce a production-ready hydraulic actuation system, Hoerbiger failed to deliver a product that met Tesla’s specifications or that fulfilled Hoerbiger promises,” Tesla said in the suit filed at the U.S. court in the northern district of California.

The suit, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is against Hoerbiger’s U.S. subsidiary Hoerbiger Automotive Comfort Systems and Hoerbiger America Holding. Hoerbiger makes valves, rings, pneumatic gearshift support systems and other products.

Hoerbiger has made a series of unreasonable demands, including that Tesla was obligated to work with Hoerbiger for the life of the Model X program. Tesla Motors

Hoerbiger, a privately owned firm headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, confirmed that Tesla was suing the company but a spokesman declined further comment. The  firm, whose roots date back to 1895, had 2014 sales of €1.1 billion, or $1.2 billion, and employs more than 7,000 people in more than 50 countries across the globe.

The "Falcon Doors," as Tesla has labeled them, which contained Hoerbiger parts were “prone to overheating,” “persistently leaked oil” and “did not open with the speed or symmetry that Tesla required,” Tesla said in the lawsuit.

Hoerbiger’s alleged failure to deliver the specified parts allowed Tesla to switch to a different supplier and Tesla was not in breach of the contract Tesla and Hoerbiger had agreed, Tesla said.

The U.S. firm, which broke off relations with Hoerbiger in May 2015, asked the court for a ruling that would free Tesla from making any further payments to Hoerbiger. Tesla also wanted Hoerbiger to pay damages.

“Since Tesla terminated this relationship, Hoerbiger has made a series of unreasonable demands, including that Tesla was obligated to work with Hoerbiger for the life of the Model X program and that Tesla owes Hoerbiger types of damages that are specifically barred by the parties’ agreement,” Tesla said in the lawsuit.

A foundation called Hoerbiger Stiftung owns 75 percent of Hoerbiger, while Christiana Hörbiger owns the remaining 25 percent. Ms. Hörbiger is one of the descendants of Hanns Hörbiger, who patented a valve in 1895.


This article was corrected to say Hoerbiger is a Swiss company, headquartered in Zug, Switzerland.

Gilbert Kreijger is an editor writing about companies and markets for Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the author: [email protected]