While critics were dismissive of the first fire involving a Tesla Model S, and drunken speeding was to blame for the second fire, reports of a third fire involving the electric luxury sedan have hurt Tesla’s stock value and have raised safety concerns. Does Elon have a major problem on his hands?
This latest fire happened in Tennessee, and was apparently caused when the driver of the Tesla Model S drove over a discarded tow hitch in the road. As with the previous fires, the tow hitch pierced the armored battery pack, causing a fire to catch and spread in the front trunk area. As in the other two fire incidents, the driver was able to escape unharmed, and credited the Tesla with saving his life.
However, this being the third fire in just over a month, and the second fire that resulted from road debris, some critics are invariably going to start questioning whether the Tesla’s design is at fault. The Nissan Leaf has been on the market for three years now, and there has not been a single battery fire incident. While the Chevy Volt had a brush with an inferno scandal, the fire broke out weeks after the car was tested and then left sitting on its roof. There haven’t been any on-road fire issues with either car in almost three years.
With Tesla facing plenty of scrutiny over three high-profile fires that have to be literally and figuratively put out, the electric automaker’s stock plunged to below $150 per share before recovering slightly. For its part, Tesla says it is investigating matters, and it could be that the large battery pack requires either more armor than previously thought. While Musk’s statement that conventional cars catch fire all the time rings true, it generally takes some egregious maintenance issues or engine problems for a gas-powered car to ignite while in motion, whereas the Telsa Model S is brand new and touted as the safest car ever.
Or perhaps these is something more sinister at work here? I don’t mean to sound all conspiracy theory, but what are the chances that a relatively low-volume vehicle like the Tesla Model S twice running over road debris on the highway, resulting in a fiery demise? All it takes is a few big mouths to begin an investigation and to order a sales-stop on this promising automaker…and what then?
Is this a Tesla design flaw, a secret conspiracy, or just a bout of bad luck? Whatever the cause, it seems like Tesla Motors and Elon Musk are about to face their first real test.