Electric automaker Tesla has been ordered by regulators to recall more than 158,000 vehicles equipped with failing display consoles, affecting Model S sedans and Model X sport-utility units sold by the company between 2012 and 2018.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a letter published Thursday that the defective "media control units" installed on the vehicles could pose a significant risk.

The control units on Tesla's vehicles serve multiple functions - including giving drivers access to the vehicle's backup camera, driver assistance system, and climate controls. Failure to operate could increase the risk of a crash, the NHTSA said.

The NHTSA said that it has ordered Tesla to fix the worn-out flash memory chips installed on the affected vehicle's displays. When the chip's capacity is reached - typically within about five to six years - the display is rendered inoperable. An investigation into the display's issue was first brought to light by a report published by Motherboard in 2019.

Tesla reportedly provided the NHTSA with a statistical model that outlined its plan to provide weekly repairs through 2028. Tesla said that most of the displays on its vehicle will happen in 2022. But the company has yet to formally issue a response to the NHTSA order.

The NHTSA noted that Tesla had issued an over-the-air software update to help reduce display failures. But the agency said that the updates "don't go far enough" to resolve the issue. "These updates are procedurally and substantively insufficient," the NHTSA said.