As described by one driver on Tesla Motor Club (via archive.org), drivers affected by this issue may hear a loud popping noise, followed by a grinding noise and then a degradation in the ride quality and handling. The noises heard by drivers who have experienced these problems may be associated with one of the control arms snapping or a suspension fore link failing, which may cause the loss of stability and control.
As identified in the NHTSA complaints, some of the alleged failures are said to have happened when the car was stationary or moving very slowly, making it little more than a costly inconvenience. Other cases, however, reportedly occurred when the vehicle was moving at speed, and they were often reported as more severe in nature. One gallery on Flickr paints a particularly grim picture, filled with screenshots of allegations and images of Teslas with entire wheel and steering assemblies jutting out of the wheel wells at 90-degree angles, or otherwise looking very much unwell.
Despite issuing a recall of 29,193 vehicles in China, Tesla downplayed the severity of the issue in a letter to the NHTSA [PDF], blaming the recall on excessive wear caused by “driver abuse.”