Feds Digging Into Tesla Car Fires

Elon Musk: There's 'no safer car on the road'

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 19, 2013 9:25 AM CST

(Newser) – Tesla is facing more scrutiny following three car fires in six weeks. First, investors launched a lawsuit; now, the government is getting involved, USA Today reports. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now investigating two of the fires, both of which occurred after Model S undercarriages hit debris on the road (the other happened during a crash). In a blog post, CEO Elon Musk says his company asked for the investigation and writes that "if something is discovered that would result in a material improvement in occupant fire safety, we will immediately apply that change to new cars and offer it as a free retrofit to all existing cars." But the NHTSA tells the LAT a different story: "The agency notified the automaker of its plans to open a formal investigation and requested their cooperation, which is standard agency practice for all investigations."

Musk also says the company will increase the cars' ground clearance to help prevent them from hitting debris, and warranties will start covering fire damage, even in the event of driver error, "to reinforce how strongly we feel about the low risk of fire in our cars." To that end:

  • "We believe the evidence is clear that there is no safer car on the road than the Model S," Musk notes. "Since the Model S went into production mid last year, there have been more than a quarter million gasoline car fires in the United States alone, resulting in over 400 deaths and 1,200 serious injuries ... compared to zero deaths and zero injuries due to Tesla fires. The media coverage of Model S fires vs. gasoline car fires is disproportionate by several orders of magnitude, despite the latter actually being far more deadly."

In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 file photo provided by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, emergency workers respond to a fire on a Tesla Model S electric car in Smyrna, Tenn.   (AP Photo/Tennessee Highway Patrol, File)
This June 22, 2012 file photo shows a Tesla Model S outside the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
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