Seeking Alpha

Tesla Model S owner puts out fire about fire

  • The owner of the Tesla Motors (TSLA) which caught fire last week to catch the attention of investors sounds unfazed about the incident in a letter he wrote to the company detailing the incident.
  • Testimonial: "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."
  • Full text of letter.
  • TSLA +2.2% premarket
Comments (39)
  • Obviously the owner has the money or the insurance coverage to buy another.


    Hyundai would give the owner another auto unless they thought a driver to drive over a trailer hitch to be too ...
    11 Nov 2013, 08:06 AM Reply Like
  • Everyone has insurance. A new vehicle is usually under a loan which requires full insurance.
    11 Nov 2013, 11:01 PM Reply Like
  • I hit some metal road debris a few years back on the Long Island Expressway. It ripped a hole in the bottom of my car, but it didn't catch on fire. I had the car towed as a precaution, and was surprised to hear from the driver how frequent these types of accidents are.


    The issue I have with the Tesla fires is that it appears to be a design flaw - it has a risk from a vey common accident that other traditional ICEs and other Electric a Vehicles do not. The designers have placed what is essentially the largest combustion souce ever (by exposed surface area) in a very dangerous position, just inches from the ground. There is a reason there has never been a fire after striking road debris in a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt but there have been 2 in the Model S - and it isn't bad luck! There are more than six times as many Volts/Leafs on the road as there are of the Model S. This is not a fluke, it is a design flaw.


    This Dr may claim the car saved his life, but it doesn't change the fact that the Model S caught on fire in a situation where a normal car or other EV would not have.
    11 Nov 2013, 08:15 AM Reply Like
  • Any statitistics on how often large metal debris is found on the road. Specifically debris that is over 5 inches in height. Now that is tough to answer.


    One or two ancedotes of how often this happens does not make it common.


    1 time in how many years of driving may I ask?


    The author RSA also hit something, once, in I'm guessing 50 yrs of driving since he is retired.


    Perhaps Tesla drivers on the whole are more aggresive drivers than Volt or Leaf owners. In the Volt, you really don't want to wreck the precious Volt stats. In the Leaf, you get killed on range by driving aggresively.


    Its defensive driving.


    That being said, if large road debris is faily common, perhaps all cars should be jacked up to have more than 6 inches of clearance. Although I can imagine the Corvette people, Ferrari owners, and any mamufacturer who sells low ground clearance sports cars would be upset.
    11 Nov 2013, 11:05 AM Reply Like
  • @Jeffry Chmielewski: A simple interim solution would just be to send a firmware update to every Model S with air suspension to not lower at speed (which it currently does to help aerodynamics). Tesla also has access to the Mercedes parts bin, so they might want to take a look at the sensors for "Magic Body Control" on the S Class to see if something from that could be leveraged to flash raise the car:



    Regardless, it is difficult to directly compare what happens with one car in one situation to that of another without taking into account other situations. That same car that didn't burn in one accident might have in another or at least might have killed the occupants (for instance, when the Model S crashed head on with a Honda at speed). NHTSA tries to make macro economic decisions for car safety vs cost. Currently they have delayed (multiple times) the requirement for backup cameras because car manufacturers have said it would be too costly to implement vs the amount of lives saved despite 50 children a week being injured or killed via backup injuries:



    While I think Tesla will eventually make some type of change (from a reputation standpoint), I doubt NHTSA will mandate it because NHTSA already knows how well the Model S did on the rest of their tests. Do you seriously think NHTSA is going to tell Tesla to add some shielding on their 5 star car over telling every manufacturer that doesn't have 5 stars to make improvements to theirs? NHTSA is about mandating relatively inexpensive changes (seatbelts, airbags, side impact, etc.) that in the macro have a large effect on reducing injuries and deaths.
    11 Nov 2013, 11:20 AM Reply Like
  • [It ripped a hole in the bottom of my car, but it didn't catch on fire]


    --That's because it didn't ripped a hole through the gas tank. If it did you wouldn't be alive today.


    [The issue I have with the Tesla fires is that it appears to be a design flaw - it has a risk from a vey common accident that other traditional ICEs and other Electric a Vehicles do not.]


    --Model S's energy source is in the bottom of the car, if something rips through it, it causes a fire - just like any other car. That's why the battery has a protective layer. I wouldn't call it a design flaw, I'd call it a trade off. The battery being at the bottom lowers the center of gravity and adds to the millage. The fact that Tesla put an armored plate at the bottom tells me that they knew that if something punctured the battery it'll cause a release of the energy stored in the battery - thus cause a fire. That's why it's designed in such away that if and when something rips through the energy source, it'll warn the driver to pull over and not just explode.


    Armored plates are again a trade off, you can make it thicker and add to the weight but the question is how thick do you make it? What happens if something hits with a greater force? You can't cover all the infinite variables.


    It would be a design flaw it the car catches fire after every accident or if the car randomly catches fire when you are driving.


    This is not a design flaw, it's how it's made, if something rips through - warn the driver to pull over and release the energy in the best possible manner - fire without reaching the passenger compartment. There maybe instance in the future when it'll rip through the center of the car and cause the fire at the center. But again the point is you cannot cover all the variables and there are always design trade offs and as far as design trade offs go, this is the best possible outcome - no loss of life or injury for that matter.
    11 Nov 2013, 11:21 AM Reply Like
  • I've been driving for 40 years and have only encountered road debris once. It was a tire iron which impaled my tire and caused a blowout. I don't think road debris is as common as you say. But I guess it depends on where you live.
    11 Nov 2013, 02:40 PM Reply Like
  • I frequently encounter road debris though so far I have always been able to go around it or otherwise avoid it. Every few months I end up calling 911 to report an object in the middle of the freeway since I tend to drive late at night and 880 is horrible. Incidentally a few months back I saw a car on the side of 880 with 20 foot flames spewing from it in front of the Tesla factory (the car was not a Tesla obviously) but it was fully engulfed. I wonder if it hit something since otherwise there were no signs of an accident.


    As the owner of a model S with an engineering background I do not have any major worries about the incidents. Two incidents out of 20K cars is statistically inconclusive and is still safer than most other vehicles. The fact that in every major accident everyone has been able to walk away seems much more significant.
    11 Nov 2013, 05:19 PM Reply Like
  • Jeffrey Chmielewski,



    11 Nov 2013, 05:34 PM Reply Like
  • Anybody that believes the owners response was not reviewed or edited by Musk, will believe anything.


    Remember the words after the first fire?


    ... a one off freak accident almost impossible to be repeated or duplicated.




    When TSLA customers are those making money in the stock, and the stock is no longer going up, you have a problem.


    Almost sounds like a Ponzi Scheme.

    11 Nov 2013, 05:35 PM Reply Like
  • Spin,


    When a car catches fire in a situation it should not have,


    Use the fact nobody was killed as a means to portray the car's active safety features and design, actually SAVED somebody's life.


    Truly amazing.
    11 Nov 2013, 05:35 PM Reply Like
  • None of these recalled vehicles need to have a collision or encounter road debris to catch fire. Oh, and none of them are EVs.


    GM recalls 480,000 cars due to fire risk
    Ford recalls 465,000 cars due to fire risk
    Chrysler recalls 2.7 million cars due to fire risk
    Toyota recalls 7.4 million cars due to fire risk
    Nissan recalls 250,000 cars due to fire risk
    BMW recalls 1,540 cars due to fire risk
    Audi recalls 3,594 cars due to fire risk


    And these were just from the last 18 months.
    11 Nov 2013, 06:52 PM Reply Like
  • Fire risk, is not the same as fire incidents.


    When taken into consideration the actual incident rate vs the number of vehicles sold, it is negligible.


    In addition only 1/2 of those could be attributed to the fact the vehicles are ICE powered.


    1/2 of them were electrical in nature.
    11 Nov 2013, 09:09 PM Reply Like
  • " NHTSA data for 2011 showed over 800 Americans were killed that year in vehicle collisions with road debris."




    Which car would you rather drive in? The one which kills you or the one where you have complete control?
    11 Nov 2013, 09:15 PM Reply Like
  • When the other makers are recalled for fire risk, the fix involves a $5 fuel line clip or a $5 power window switch.


    In the case of Tesla, it could be the overall architecture, or design.


    What's the fix for that, and what will be the costs?


    Perhaps enough to take $60 or more off the stock price.
    11 Nov 2013, 10:22 PM Reply Like
  • Using Dave M's metrics,


    All Teslas should be recalled, as fire "RISK" has already been demonstrated.


    99% of other makers cars were recalled for risk, not actual event incidents.
    11 Nov 2013, 10:23 PM Reply Like
  • "Fire risk, is not the same as fire incidents."


    In that case, over 175k ICE vehicles caught fire in 2012.
    11 Nov 2013, 11:03 PM Reply Like
  • "Using Dave M's metrics,


    All Teslas should be recalled, as fire "RISK" has already been demonstrated."


    No, it shouldn't. 2 vehicles is not significant in this case. If you even attempt to do statistics on 2 vehicles, there your numbers are going to be all wonky and your range will be ridiculous.
    11 Nov 2013, 11:06 PM Reply Like
  • -That's because it didn't ripped a hole through the gas tank. If it did you wouldn't be alive today. *********** Gas tanks don't " blow up " when punctured and in fact the majority don't catch fire. There have been two Teslas out of less than 20k on the road that have had the battery compartment breached by road debris causing a fire. Those are terrible odds !
    12 Nov 2013, 02:26 PM Reply Like
  • I don't think road debris is as common as you say.******* I don't think it's commonly reported because cars don't get incinerated by it ….
    12 Nov 2013, 02:27 PM Reply Like
  • Hi 1980XLS,


    And anyone who believes that you are not shorting Tesla, or that you are not a shill for big oil or auto is a simpleton!


    Best wishes,


    12 Nov 2013, 09:50 PM Reply Like
  • antiguajohn.


    Been on this board for years.


    Not from big oil either.


    Some said the same when I was shorting AONE to zero.


    And, so it did. (go to zero)


    And no shorts did not make that happen.


    A assure you I am not big enough to move markets in something in market weight & volume as TSLA.


    But I can assure you, it's not worth 1/2 of what it's trading for.


    Just a gearhead car nut. (one that also hates seeing people get ripped off)


    One that happens to have sold serviced and installed, back-up power systems for nearly 30 years. To Institutions, data centers, Schools, utilities etc.


    Batteries, UPS systems, Generators, solar systems, inverters, chargers & motors.


    Companies like Caterpillar, Emerson, Cummins, Seimens, Leibert, etc.


    Barring a battery breakthrough (that won't com from TSLA by the way)


    TSLA will never sell a 200mi range car under 50K


    I guarantee it.


    The expectations are a pipe dream, bordering on fraud.


    And unlike many others you won't find any posts of me calling it a bubble until AFTER it went over $180.


    Own this junk at your own peril.
    12 Nov 2013, 11:14 PM Reply Like
  • 1980XLS - "Fire risk, is not the same as fire incidents."


    If I haven't been in an accident, or collided with road debris, I shouldn't have to worry that the car parked in my garage might spontaneously catch fire and burn down my house. This wouldn't ever happen with a Tesla Model S.


    However, the 480,000 GM vehicles that were recalled due to fire risk, might just cause that to happen. And that is a REAL concern of mine. Not some anti-Tesla FUD.


    This is from the first link about the GM fire risk recall in my post (above).
    Government safety investigators said "a fire could occur even while the vehicle is not in use."
    "As a precaution, owners are advised to park outside until the remedy has been made," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said . ."


    If you want to worry about something, worry about REAL stuff, not suspicions.
    13 Nov 2013, 08:07 AM Reply Like
  • Dave_M,


    "This wouldn't ever happen in with a Tesla model S"




    Those recalls and fire risk in both GM and Hondas were ELECTRICAL in nature and had zero relevance to them being ICE cars. As such it could just as easily happen to a Tesla.


    Does Musk make his own power window switches for Tesla?


    In fact, he likely uses the same vendors as the other majors. If he didn't he would not be able to get an economical price.


    Spin it anyway you want, a TSLA could easily have suffer the same affliction.


    BTW: Have you heard?


    Tesla Model S cures cancer for all it's owners too.
    13 Nov 2013, 08:52 AM Reply Like
  • 1980XLS - ""This wouldn't ever happen in with a Tesla model S"


    Well, spontaneous fires have never happened in a non-damaged Tesla Model S. They HAVE happened in some non-damaged GM vehicles. Hence the GM recall.


    Of course, it's possible that a meteorite might hurl down from the sky and strike me dead, because afterall, meteorites have hit the earth before. While some people might worry about that, I don't. I guess if I wanted a research grant, I might persuade people that it's a big enough problem that it needs to be studied - ideally by me. Yup, that would serve me well.
    13 Nov 2013, 09:05 AM Reply Like
  • No actually he owns shares (long). His opinion is subjective and protective of his investment.
    11 Nov 2013, 08:18 AM Reply Like
  • People who short the stock always have a reason other than the fact they are shorting the stock and they want the longs to sell helping their investment, but they will never say that either.
    11 Nov 2013, 09:21 AM Reply Like
  • Really ? Yeah because we all know panic starts because of a commenter on an internet site.


    <sarcasm> My words here move the market </sarcasm>
    11 Nov 2013, 09:23 AM Reply Like
  • He says he "would" buy not that he is going to buy.
    11 Nov 2013, 09:28 AM Reply Like
  • because insurance is going to pay for the replacement? Or maybe Tesla is?
    11 Nov 2013, 01:22 PM Reply Like
  • The sad thing is, it doesn't matter. No matter what happens to these vehicles, the $TSLA longs will find reasons and excuses that defy logic to not put a dark spot on their beloved. It reminds me of the $BBRY longs who railed me when I said I thought it was a 7-8$ stock. In the end it doesn't matter, it order for someone to make money, someone has to lose money, that is the nature of gambling.


    The other automakers will not have to take shots at $TSLA, once the stock plummets again, the class actions will begin.
    11 Nov 2013, 09:45 AM Reply Like
  • most sensible longs think the stock is overvalued... hence why they are not jumping into buying more on the initial dip. But the car and the company are rather solid. Given the fire statistics we have, and the information about the car, even if it does catch fire every time you hit road debris, you still need to look at it from a saving lives standpoint. Given that, noone has died in a Tesla at all. There have been numerous accidents (only 3 fires), and all that I have seen is people walking away at worst with a couple scratches and bruises. If the car starts randomly exploding, or catching fire after every single accident, maybe then I will have an issue with the car (this is not an outrageous claim, both of these things have happened to cars in the past).
    11 Nov 2013, 01:27 PM Reply Like
  • I bought TSLA last Friday and it has proved to be a profitable trade thus far. I earned my Christmas family vacation :-)


    I have long believed Elon and TSLA though never owned until last Friday. Will add more when I see fit.
    11 Nov 2013, 10:29 AM Reply Like
  • If you bought TSLA last friday, then you had PLENTY of money to go on vacation before the stock went up 5/share.
    12 Nov 2013, 08:45 AM Reply Like
  • Hope there is no more fire incident. If there is one more incident, TSLA will be force to have a recall to acknowledge the skid plate issue...that will definitely push down the stock price for sure....
    11 Nov 2013, 11:54 AM Reply Like
  • where do you get that one more will force a recall?
    11 Nov 2013, 01:29 PM Reply Like
  • I'm just surprised that Tesla didn't test for this type of problem (running over objects at high speed).
    I guess as it isn't a mandatory test by the NHTSA they may have overlooked it and thought the armour plate would be enough.
    Tesla has done LOTS of crash testing and while it looks like the did a great job of preventing fires from front, rear, and side impacts (which the NHTSA did test for and no fires occurred) it seems that a blunt force trauma directly from underneath is the chink in their safety armour.
    I have no doubt Elon has his best engineers coming up with a solution. Perhaps a kevlar wrap for the undertray? This could be attached to all future Model S leaving the factory, with a cost price option to add this for any existing owners who are concerned. Provided of course the NHTSA doesn't enforce a recall.


    Tesla has been proactive on all potential issues in the past. Judging by their silence during the past two fires I am willing to bet they are looking at all possible options and testing them as we speak.
    11 Nov 2013, 05:35 PM Reply Like
  • Right on queue...Elon Musk about to release a statement on recent fires. Solution proposal already? We'll see soon enough.
    11 Nov 2013, 09:15 PM Reply Like
  • The debate over the safety of Tesla vehicles appears to be a welcome distraction for Tesla longs. They debate over the safety, and yet have little in means of justifying current valuation. The vehicle fires are minor compared to how overvalued the company is. My advice; get out while you can.
    11 Nov 2013, 06:18 PM Reply Like
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