• Elon Musk Announces Tesla Action Plan Addressing Model S Fires


    2014 Tesla Model S P85+ takes on the Ike Gauntlet Review

    Elon Musk took to the official Tesla blog to defend the reputation of the Model S against claims that it is unsafe after reports of three different vehicle fires.

    The news of the fires, along with images of burned out Teslas sitting at the edge of the road, have been making the rounds over the last few months. Some of the headlines have been splashy and attention grabbing and many have questioned the safety of the Model S.

    Musk came out in defense of the Model S, and electric vehicles in general, citing figures for fire and injuries in gasoline vehicles as a striking comparison. He used data from the National Fire Protection Association to support his argument.

    It shows there have been over a quarter of a million gasoline fires in the US since the Tesla Model S started production. Those fires resulted in 400 deaths and 1,200 serious injuries.

    There have been only three Tesla Model S fires with no deaths and no serious injuries.

    It might at first seem an unbalanced comparison given there are far fewer of the Tesla Model S on the road in the whole world than all gasoline vehicles in the US, so he breaks it down even more. Three Tesla fires equate to one in every 6,333 vehicles while gasoline vehicles rate one fire per every 1,350 cars.

    Musk also talked of Tesla’s excellent safety ratings in official tests. The Model S got a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and earned a top rating in every category. Its roof was even so strong that it broke the crush-test machine.

    His confidence in the safety of his vehicles along with test data to back it up doesn’t mean that they’re not taking action to improve the chances that the Model S won’t catch fire in a collision. Musk announced three steps that Tesla is taking to improve what is already a very safe car.

    First, they’ve sent an over-the-air update that will adjust the vehicle’s suspension to give it greater ground clearance at highway speeds. Second, they’ve actually requested the NHTSA open an investigation into the fires.

    Although they don’t expect the NHTSA to find fault in the vehicle, they do feel it’s important to assuage public fears over the safety of the Tesla Model S and electric vehicles in general.

    Lastly, they’re amending vehicle warranty coverage to cover fire damage, even if it’s the driver’s fault. Short of the driver actually setting it on fire on purpose, any vehicle fire is going to be covered by Tesla.

    The problem with the fires may be small in number, but this dramatic response by Tesla shows just how seriously they’re taking the issue and its potential long-term affects on Tesla’s reputation.

    Nicole Wakelin fell in love with cars as a teenager when she got to go for a ride in a Ferrari. It was red and it was fast and that was all that mattered. Game over. She considers things a bit more carefully now, but still has a weakness for fast, beautiful cars. Nicole also writes for NerdApproved and GeekMom.

    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov is an Automotive Enthusiast, Producer, Reviewer, Videographer, Writer, Software Engineer, Husband, Father, and Friend.

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    4 thoughts on “Elon Musk Announces Tesla Action Plan Addressing Model S Fires

    1. Good for Mr. Musk. This entire episode has been a case study in media induced panic that fails to take into account even the most elementary statistical comparisons. The fact that vehicle fires are nearly five times (!) as likely in gasoline powered vehicles should be in the lead of news stories, not buried on page 6 or absent, altogether.

      1. Yup, agreed. I’ve been covering the fires and honestly some of the headlines are way out of line. You’d think the things are just bursting into flame for no reason and that’s just not the case. I’m happy to see him taking a stand, which everyone knew he would because that’s just him, and I’m glad to see an action plan designed to calm everyone down. Although, like you said, five times the chance of a fire in a gas car so really those owners have way more to fear.

    2. Hi Nicole.

      Maybe you read my comments in the past issue you posted about the Tesla fires, The actions to be taken in order to clarify the problem of burning cars came late on because other car manufacturers like VW were faster when similar problems happened, as an example the fires of the New Beetle due to a risk of stabbing with a screw on the battery in the late nineties. I only hope Tesla finds the roots of the problem and offers the right solution.

      Joseph

      1. Hey Joseph,
        I think the plan they’ve set out is a good one. There’s no defect per se, nothing is working incorrectly, but rather a specific type of damage sustained in an accident causes a fire. The numbers back up the idea that this isn’t something beyond the norm but is far less than the norm in gas cars and no one is demanding changes to prevent their fires. It will be very interesting to see if the NHTSA makes any recommendations for changes.
        Nicole

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