Updated: Tesla responds below.
The Tesla Model S has garnered a lot of attention over the past year, and once again the California-based electric automaker finds itself making the news, only this time it’s after a Model S caught fire after colliding with an object on the road.
In an Automotive News report, Tesla states the Model S “collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle.” Reports that the electric battery had ignited sent Wall Street into a frenzied panic, and Tesla shares dropped from $193 to $180.95 at Wednesday’s close. The shares continued to fall on Thursday, with Tesla closing at $173.31.
Not long ago, concerns over the Chevrolet Volt’s faulty electric batteries resulted in a lot of negative press for Chevrolet and GM. The sell off in Tesla stock may in part be panic that a similar situation may be occurring with the Tesla Model S. Tesla CEO Elon Musk–usually very vocal, often tweeting important company announcements–has yet to make any official statement regarding the accident and fire in Washington state.
The Tesla Model S was winner of the Motor Trend Car of the Year last year, among other awards. The unconventional sedan received praise for its attractive looks in a segment often populated by awkward, quirky models. The 17-inch media screen is the largest, and most attractive of any production cars that we’ve seen. Most impressively, the Model S can self-update, using wireless internet and already embedded software. The 2013 Tesla Model S Performance model with the automaker’s largest battery pack starts just shy of $100,000. As for the fire? Remember that thousands of gasoline cars catch on fire every single year. While a big deal is being made about this one because of the brand and vehicle’s electric drivetrain, a car fire in itself is hardly unheard of.
Update: The expected response from Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has finally appeared, and backs up a lot of what we’ve already said. He notes that the vehicle struck a large curved section of metal that fell off a semi trailer; the curved metal punctured the battery pack’s quarter-inch “armor plate” on the bottom of the vehicle. The owner then pulled over and exited without injury. The fire itself was contained to the frontmost of the battery’s 16 module, and only spread when firefighters punctured the battery pack to put out the fire; the internal firewalls in the battery did their job. By contrast, Musk notes, a gasoline car hitting an object like that could’ve easily punctured a fuel line, starting a gas fire that would burn it to the ground.
Source: Automotive News (subscription required)