Tesla Model S Front

Tesla’s Elon Musk: There Won’t Be A Model S Recall

Yesterday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confidently predicted that three recent fires involving crash-damaged Model S sedans won’t lead to an official recall, despite “extremely inaccurate and unreasonable” media hype surrounding the three separate incidents.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is adamant: There will be no Model S recall. (Image by Brian Solis.)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is adamant: There will be no Model S recall. (Image by Brian Solis.)

Speaking at the New York Times’ DealBook conference in New York, which was also live-streamed on CNBC, Musk reiterated his belief that the luxury sedan was far safer than any other car on the market, referencing Tesla’s exemplary safety record to date.

“We’re about five times less likely to have a fire than an average gasoline car,” he said. There’s definitely not going to be a recall… There’s no reason for a recall, I believe.”

Back in October, a Model S sedan caught fire several minutes after hitting a piece of metallic debris on a Washington freeway. According to Musk’s own response to the incident, the force of the impact with the metallic object was somewhere around 25 tons, punching a 3-inch diameter hole through the quarter in armoured plating on the bottom of the Model S.

While the car eventually caught fire — after alerting the driver to pull over somewhere safe and get out of the vehicle — the design of the Model S’ battery pack prevented the fire from spreading beyond the small area surrounding the area of impact, and firefighters were eventually able to extinguish the fire without any casualties or damage to property.

Tesla Model S

Musk says the Model S is still the safest cars ever made.

The second fire occurred a few weeks later after a speeding Model S piloted by a drunk driver hit a roundabout, two kerbs, and finally a tree. In this particular instance, the car is believed to have caught some air and grounded itself on something before catching fire. Like the previous instance, the fire was contained to the specific locality of the impact.

The third fire, which happened last week in Tennessee, was similar to the first: a Model S driving at speed on the freeway impacted with a tow hitch which had fallen off another vehicle, causing impact trauma to the front undercarriage of the car. As with the other two incidents, the car did not immediately catch fire, and the driver had time to safely pull over and stop before the fire started.

The latter incident is still under investigation by local authorities, although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that it is in contact with investigators concerning the incident. It did not investigate the first accident in Washington, while the second accident occurred outside of its jurisdiction. At the moment, the NHTSA has said it is monitoring the performance of Tesla vehicles but has not begun an official investigation.

Pointing out that fires occur in one in every 1,300 gasoline cars on average, Musk was keen to note that the three fires involving Teslas represent a one fire in every 8,000 cars.

“If you read the headlines, it sounds like Tesla have a greater propensity to catch fire than other cars,” Musk said. “In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.”

As CEO of Tesla, Musk’s confidence in his company’s product is of course, expected. But both of the drivers whose cars hit debris on the freeway have stated their public support of Tesla and say they will buy another Tesla without any hesitation.

“Had I not been in a Tesla, that object could have punched through the floor and caused me serious harm,” said Juris, Shibayama, MD, driver of the Tennessean Tesla Model S which caught fire last week. “I would buy another one in a heartbeat.”

Here at Transport Evolved, we believe a little perspective is needed when examining these three Tesla fires, but find ourselves (for now) agreeing with those who say that there’s little to worry about at the present time.

But what do you think? Have these Tesla fires change your opinion of the Model S? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.



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  • MEroller

    I think a tad more ground clearance at highway speeds and some form of heavy duty sheet metal ramp between front axle and battery would do Model S good in reducing fatal debris impact on the battery. Every battery fire is unnecessary as hell, never mind the currently only 1 in 8000 chance of a Model S fire.

  • I’d like to see a reconstruction of the 1st and 3rd incident, from an independent organisation, and done with a comparable ICE sedan.nWhat damage would a tow hitch cause to any other normal car? Is the Tesla (and perhaps also the BMW i3) always so vulnerable to this kind of road debris?

  • Pingback: Tesla Quietly Pushes Model S Software Update, Disables High-Speed Lowering()

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