After a Model S involved in a collision with road debris in Tennessee caught fire earlier this week, the third such incident in just over a month, Tesla was faced with growing concern — particularly from investors, who sent the stock tumbling on Thursday — that a bigger problem was affecting the wildly popular all-electric sedan.
Likely looking to short-circuit the notion that the Model S is saddled by an engineering or manufacturing flaw, Tesla has published a blog post today signed by the driver of the latest fire-stricken car, who has nothing but positive things to say about his experience. "While driving after I hit the object until I pulled over, the car performed perfectly, and it was a totally controlled situation," he writes. "This experience does not in any way make me think that the Tesla Model S is an unsafe car. I would buy another one in a heartbeat." The driver, Juris Shibayama, had run over a trailer hitch, which apparently punctured the protective shield guarding the batteries on the car's undercarriage.
Lots of cars catch fire — but are these fires statistically significant?
By all appearances, it's reasonable to believe that the Model S has just had an unlucky stretch: NHTSA stats show that about a tenth of one percent of all car crashes lead to a fire, a side effect of the fact that energy — be it stored in a battery or as gasoline — is a fire risk. Still, it stands to reason that Tesla could be well-served to look into beefing up the battery's armor, just as Chevrolet made modifications to its Volt after post-crash fires in 2011.