Tesla chief expects US to clear Model S in fires

Nov 23, 2013 by Tom Krisher
In this Saturday, March 9, 2013, file photo, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gives the opening keynote at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Musk is confident that his Model S electric car is safe and will be cleared by a federal investigation into two recent fires. (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett, File)

The leader of upstart automaker Tesla Motors is confident that its Model S electric car is safe and will be cleared by a U.S. investigation into two battery fires.

Chief executive Elon Musk said the fires, which occurred when metal road debris pierced the underbody of the cars at highway speeds, are extreme cases. He doesn't expect a recall and said his engineers are not working on any fixes for the battery-powered cars.

"In both cases it was a large piece of metal essentially braced against the tarmac," Musk said in a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press.

No one was hurt in the fires, which happened along freeways near Seattle and Nashville, Tennessee. Another fire happened in Mexico after the driver ran through a concrete wall at more than 100 mph (160 kph).

Musk said no one has ever been hurt in a Model S crash, which shows there's no safety problem for drivers or passengers.

"I'm not saying it can't happen again," he said. "I'm saying in any kind of low-speed impact, you're fine. Any car, Model S or not Model S, the underside is going to get significantly damaged if you drive over a large metal object."

Musk described the weeks since the fires as "tortureHe understands that a new technology such as will get more scrutiny, "but not to the insane degree that we're receiving."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. government's auto safety watchdog, announced on Tuesday that it would investigate the U.S. fires to see if there's a safety problem in the Tesla design. NHTSA said it would "examine the potential risks associated with undercarriage strikes." The investigation could lead to a recall, but a decision likely is months away.

Tesla's stock price has dropped by 37 percent since the first fire. Some investors and analysts also were disappointed by the company's third-quarter results.

But Musk said the stock's value, which earlier in the year had risen 470 percent to $194.50, got too high and the market is correcting it. "I believe I said several times that the valuation was more than we had any right to deserve," said Musk, a billionaire who co-founded PayPal and started SpaceX. "I was not the one who thought the valuation should go up to such levels."

Tesla shares closed Friday down 72 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $121.38.

Musk also said that Model S sales are higher than expected so far in the fourth quarter. Earlier this week the car received the highest owner satisfaction score in a Consumer Reports survey.

But Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, in a note to investors Thursday, cut 10 percent from his 2014 Model S sales estimate, saying that historically other automakers have lost sales during highly publicized investigations.

He reduced his Model S sales forecast for next year to 29,700 and lowered his one-year price target for Tesla stock from $141 to $120.

Tesla, which is based in California, hasn't released a sales forecast for next year. But in early November, it predicted 21,500 deliveries worldwide this year.

Explore further: US safety agency opens probe into Tesla fires (Update 2)

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Eikka
1.4 / 5 (13) Nov 23, 2013
Any car, Model S or not Model S, the underside is going to get significantly damaged if you drive over a large metal object."


But not any car has a highly flammable battery there.

Musk is overreacting to the issue that people take over the safety of electric cars and acting a martyr for publicity's sake.

Fire is an issue not only to the passenger safety, but for the risk of everyone else around. If a car catches fire in the middle of a traffic jam, in a tunnel, inside a parking house, etc. it's going to ruin the day for a lot more people whether or not the passengers can get out in time.
Humpty
1.8 / 5 (10) Nov 23, 2013
Hmmm no - it's a case of statistical probability.........

Like the cock pit of an aircraft getting hit by a baseball size asteroid.... while flying at 12,000 meters.

"Oh noes" go the idiot americans, "We must now bolt a 1 meter thick slab of armor plate onto the roof of all aircraft...."

"Gotta think of the children."

and a myriad of other excuses.....

VendicarE
5 / 5 (2) Nov 24, 2013
If a gasoline powered car catches fire in the middle of a traffic jam, in a tunnel, inside a parking house, etc. it's going to ruin the day for a lot more people

A resident in the 12100 block of Southwest Faircrest Street had left a car running idle and went back into the home when the vehicle burst into flames about 7:20 a.m.

The car was engulfed when firefighters arrived and the flames spread up the side of the home and into the attic through a vent

http://www.oregon...dar.html

Car Fire Spreads to Prospect Street Home, Leaves Family Displaced

http://bethel.pat...isplaced

Home, antiques destroyed after car fire spreads in Trona

http://www.sbsun....in-trona

Morning Crystal Lake truck fire ignited garage

http://www.nwhera...awlb8m2/
Eikka
1 / 5 (6) Nov 24, 2013
If a gasoline powered car catches fire in the middle of a traffic jam, in a tunnel, inside a parking house, etc. it's going to ruin the day for a lot more people


You do realize you're making a tu-quoque fallacy?

The question here is whether Tesla's cars do in fact ignite easier than gasoline powered vehicles on minor impacts and accidents. So far it's four accidents and three fires that I know of.

Elon Musk is just making a red herring out of passenger safety, when that's only really a part of the issue.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (7) Nov 24, 2013
Elon Musk is just making a red herring out of passenger safety, when that's only really a part of the issue.
The larger issue is why roads have such debris, when debris are known to cause accidents and fires
_-__________
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 28, 2013
If electric vehicles will ever become practical,
battery research and development is the ultimate priority.

Here are some goals R&D should aim for:
● A battery with twice the capacity of Model S's high-end having the same dimensions/weight/cost
● A battery that costs half as much as the Model S's high-end while having the same dimensions/weight/capacity
● A battery that's half the size of the Model S's high-end with the same capacity/cost

Somebody get on Kickstarter and setup a fund for this!
Clearly, this is something we should all give a damn about.