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Third Tesla battery fire in five weeks endangers perception of safety

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tesla stock 1020
tesla stock 1020

Electric car maker Tesla isn't having the best of weeks, following a drop in its stock price over fears of battery shortages and now a new incident involving one of its vehicles. A Model S in Tennessee caught fire on Wednesday after striking debris on the road, which pierced and damaged the car's battery. Its driver was able to pull over and escape, but the car went down in flames.

Tesla has responded by sending out a crew to investigate the circumstances of the accident, though the company stands by the safety record of its cars. That's supported by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which determined that the other recent fire in the US, occurring in the Seattle area last month, was not caused by any safety deficiencies. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was unequivocal in the wake of that event, stating that "there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid."

Even with all three drivers uninjured and apparently wanting to get another Tesla to replace their lost cars, the company stands to take a significant hit to its reputation. As analyst Karl Brauer tells USA Today, the mere association of the Tesla brand and the word "fire" in headlines, particularly if repeated over time, will drag down the company's perception — whatever the actual facts.