Since early October, three Tesla Model S sedans have caught on fire, gained viral media coverage and received intense scrutiny, but Tesla's CEO and largest shareholder, Elon Musk, says "there's definitely not going to be a recall" of the Model S, Bloomberg reports. As of late October, the National Highway Traffic Safety administration (NHTSA) says it will not be launching a formal investigation into the Model S fire in Seattle, because there's no evidence to suggest that the fire was caused by a manufacturer defect and no government-mandated safety regulations were violated.

Though the fires are alarming, one must realize that hundreds of thousands of vehicle fires occur in the US every year. Electric Teslas, like any vehicle (including those with an internal combustion engine), are not immune to catching fire in certain situations. Here's Musk's take on the issue: "[The Model S] is about five times less likely to have a fire than an average gasoline car," he reportedly said Tuesday at the New York Times' DealBook conference in New York.

The first of the aforementioned fires occurred in Seattle and started in the battery pack after the Tesla hit a piece of road debris. The second fire occurred in Merida, Mexico, after the driver, who was speeding in his Model S, reportedly struck a raised pedestrian crossing, launched into the air and then crashed into a wall and tree. The third Model S ignition occurred after the driver ran over a tow hitch in Smyrna, Tenn., and - similar to the Seattle fire - damaged the undercarriage of the car where the battery is located.


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  • 179 Comments
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Never say never. Elon needs to learn to restrain himself a bit. His original defense of the Model S after the first fire looks a bit overdone now considering there have been two more fires. And the same with his criticism of Boeing's Li-Ion problems. The fire issue would not stop me from buying a Model S . . . but it is real issue to consider.
      Cruising
      • 1 Year Ago
      No need to the cars are not defective. You can't recall the laws of physics. I've said it before a piece of rubber from a blown tire fractured the fuel tank of the Concorde just from the shockwave of it hitting the underside of the plane. Freak accidents happen, physics can't be avoided.
      Mart Shearer
      • 1 Year Ago
      http://www.nfpa.org/research/statistical-reports/vehicles/vehicle-fire-trends-and-patterns Should give you a fair amount of data concerning vehicle fires.
      Joeviocoe
      • 1 Year Ago
      http://green.autoblog.com/2013/11/13/is-the-tesla-model-s-a-fire-trap-nope/#aol-comments
      the.fog
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ban this death trap.
        downwithlaser
        • 1 Year Ago
        @the.fog
        Exactly! What a fire hazard this is! Now excuse me while I go put 10 gallons of highly flammable liquid into my petrol powered car. You do realize that the Model S is designed that should it catch fire, It will burn under control. notice how the burns all remained at the front of the car? Also, the cabin was completely untouched by flames and smoke.
      fcarlo17
      • 1 Year Ago
      Leave it to Tesla to single-handedly associate electric cars to fire. Sad to see that the reputation of electric cars built by Nissan and GM with the Leaf and Volt are permanently tainted now. How many Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts have lit to a fire in the hands of consumers? Zero.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @fcarlo17
        There have been ALL of those. Does no one remember Fisker? How many dozens of those burned, recalled, and then burned some more (not even accounting for the losses in Sandy)?
        Charrop
        • 1 Year Ago
        @fcarlo17
        I want to ask for a source, but a headline involving "Leaf" + "Fire" would be too easy for journalists to pass up.
          stevejust
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Charrop
          Umm... you've heard of google, right? I don't think this message board doesn't allow hot links like this one: http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/20/autos/nhtsa_closes_volt_fire_investigation/index.htm
          theflew
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Charrop
          @stevejust There have been no Volt fires caused by the Volt outside of testing. Even in testing a fire occurred two weeks after crash testing and the car laying upside down. Reproducing this fire could only be done by pulling the battery out of the car and and puncturing it. Other fires have involved the Volt, but the Volt wasn't the cause.
        stevejust
        • 1 Year Ago
        @fcarlo17
        The Fisker did that pretty well for itself. I don't know where you're getting zero Volt fires. Did you really never seen any media coverage of the Volt fires? Or did you just forget? There have been multiple Volt fires. And a handful of Leaf fires as well. The problem with message board is people can say whatever they want and ignore the facts.
      Chrx
      • 1 Year Ago
      How many cars com bust into flames because they ran over a little road debris?
        methos1999
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Chrx
        Last I checked a 3 sided trailer hitch is not "a little road debris".
          frostillicus80
          • 1 Year Ago
          @methos1999
          @jz78817: You actually checked on that?
          Cory Stansbury
          • 1 Year Ago
          @methos1999
          Yeah, I'd imagine that would come through the floor of more than a few cars, injuring the driver or passengers grievously.
        jeff
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Chrx
        Actually a lot.... Many fires are cause by simple debris like paper and plastic getting caught on the exhaust and catching fire. I posted two examples of this recently. I also posted one of a patrol car that caught fire after hitting some debris that busted the oil pan and the oil ignited on the hot exhaust. Also a Lamo recently hit a piece of tire and also caught fire after oil pan was ruptured. A Porshce Panameri recently caught fire after a wreck as did a new BMW 6 series. The official answer is that an ICE catch fire in about 3% of acidents.
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      Fire! OMG there's a fire! Sure it's scary. If no one is hurt, and no one has been hurt, then a fire doesn't mean the car is less safe than any other vehicle. It just means that it might be more susceptible to a fire when hitting road debris. That is for insurance companies to decide if the premiums need to be higher against being totaled.
        Dean Hammond
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        still havent heard from any owners what Insuranacecosts are on an S...curious...
          Leather Bear
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          @ Ron, I suspect that the higher insurance rates are mostly due to the aluminum bodywork, as collision repair on that requires special training and equipment. One could check the insurance rates for an Audi A8 or Jag XJ; I think that you'll find that they're higher than for a similar Lexus LS or BMW 7-series.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Also, many insurance companies don't want to insure any EV.. and tend to jack up premiums for the Leaf and Volt too. Shop around.
          Ron
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          When I was looking to buy one, it was outrageously high (2x higher than my GTR) and that was before the fires...
      ammca66564
      • 1 Year Ago
      Teslas are 5 times less likely to catch fire than gas cars. OK, how does that number work? From what I've seen in online discussions Teslas are 3 times less likely to catch fire. BUT that figure works only if you ignore time on the road. Teslas have on average been on the road just a few months each. Mr. Musk is comparing them to the general auto fleet, a fleet of cars that have been on the road an average of 11.4 years each. Take that into account, and Teslas catch fire at a rate many, many time that of gas cars, even using Musk's optimistic figures.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ammca66564
        Math is not your friend. Miles commuted divided by fires. It works just fine even with Tesla's smaller sample distance. Distance, not time. Tesla is still way under average. 3 fires in 150,000,000 miles. ICE fire 1 in 20,000,000 miles. When Tesla gets to 1 in 20,000,000 miles, then they will be even with ICE cars and this STILL wont be a discussion.
          ammca66564
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          150,000,000 miles on the roughly 6,000 Teslas out there works out to 25,000 miles per Tesla. These cars are 3, maybe 4 months old on average. I'm having a hard time believing they've got that kind of mileage on them already.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          The newness of the car does change the statistics. But it doesn't take into account the fact that the car is safe in spite of the fires.
          theflew
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          I think the issue is the Chevy Volt which has both battery and gas tank have had 0 fires in 318 million millions. Someone isn't doing something right.
      mycommentemail
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow. So many new commenters here today. The astroturfing is getting out of hand on this site. Do these trolls claiming doom and gloom because a car caught fire after an accident (something that has clearly never happened before tesla) have a bunch of shorted tesla stock? Or did that moron Sarah Palin tweet that her ditto heads should attack tesla in the hopes that she would eventually be proven right in her assessment that tesla was a "loser" company? In any event it doesn't really matter what a tiny number of uninformed anti ev activists try to do on this unimportant blog. The future is clear, and it ain't gasoline powered.
        ammca66564
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mycommentemail
        It's hard when something threatens your faith.
        jeff
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mycommentemail
        Well it is basically all they really have to whine about any more... Tesla has proven that an EV an be practical and very desirable. The supercharger network will prove that range anxiety is not really any big deal. So the only argument against the EV that is higher initial cost and the fact that three Model S caught on fire after accidents... The cost is going to come down, so this is really the ONLY issue they have left...
          Ron
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jeff
          I seriously looked at buying a model S.. but ran into a few issues that made it impossible to use: I could not jump in it and drive to Vegas this weekend.. Nor would I be able take a weekend trip to the beach; Or really anywhere... Which meant I would still need to have a second gas powered car to go just about anywhere. If I drove my 100k high performance sports sedan like a high performance sports sedan, it is likely I would have to recharge before I made it to my office and home again, as the "200 mile range" is only if you drive like you are in a funeral procession, and if you don't buy the Performance model. Accelerate away from lights, give it stick on the highway and that battery drains FAST, scary fast. And finally... The Tesla Model S was about 35k more expensive than a comparable sports sedan; Meaning at 15k miles per year, I would have to drive the Model S @368421.08 miles, or 24 years, to break even.... and that is if the electricity charging the model S was 100% free (which it isn't...) So in all reality, No, Tesla has not proven that an EV can be practical in anyway shape or form; and the "higher initial cost" is not small difference...It is a giant difference! I could buy an entire Audi A4, or a BMW 3 with the difference in cost over a comparable car!!!
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jeff
          Ron, don't pretend that you were seriously looking at buying a Model S. You haven't even driven it.. and you are comparing it to a BMW 3 series. You are not even aware of the existence of superchargers between the LA area and Vegas? You haven't done any research. It may not be the right car for you... but don't pretend that tens of thousands of people have already decided that the Model S is comparable to much higher end cars.
        Zaki
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mycommentemail
        Anyone not agreeing with your point of view is a troll?! Must make life really simple for you, huh?
          Dean Hammond
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Zaki
          you have to understand the cult mentality Zaki....as much as i admire the Car itself and Musk, the groupies\" find it impossible to relate to anything other than GLOWING reports, comments and praise....( and no GLOWING wasnt intended to be a side swiping pun ) there are a couple of followers that thankfully utilize logic when posting, and can hold a valid conversation without resorting to namecalling and spiteful votedowns, ( usually multiple under several stage names )but its stalwarts such as Coolwaters and the notorious m-2012 that basically are an embarassment to everything tesla represents.....
      Zaki
      • 1 Year Ago
      Any potential customer of a Tesla with half a brain would now think twice before making the purchase. Tesla needs to reassure the public that their family is not buying a human toaster oven. The way to do that is not by denying a problem for fear of a market meltdown of their inflated stock. If I owned any shares in the company, I would be unloading it now. Do not fall in love with a stock....protect your investment instead.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Zaki
        Anyone with 1/4 of a brain would realize that all cars can and DO catch fire, especially if you short circuit the electrical system. You do realize that every Tesla fire was caused by an accident first, right? Road debris cause fires all the time. When Tesla has a spontaneous fire, MAYBE we can be concerned - even though thousands of ICE cars catch fire every year while not running. Remember Ford burning down hundreds of homes and even a few deaths? Ford seems to be doing alright. Not only am I holding onto my shares, but I bought into some more yesterday. Go back to your horse and buggy, they didnt catch fire, much.
          m_2012
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          I do sleep well, thanks. And while I dont watch it like a hawk, I am sure it will be fine. Im not in overnight or to short it.
          Zaki
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          I hope you will sleep well tonight,having added to your Tesla shares :) If you are watching the ticker like a hawk however, I suggest that you are hoping there will be no more Tesla's catching fire! When Tesla hit $194 a share about six weeks ago and then skidded (now $140's), a lot of people in love with the stock added more. Maybe you will get lucky and have a chance to unload before the next step down to $100....unfortunately by the time individuals finally decide they have had enough is when the big guys have started the selling and you end up holding the bag....good luck:)
          Dean Hammond
          • 1 Year Ago
          @m_2012
          M-2012, I wouldnt sleep too well at all if my hard earned was vested in tesla stock...once all the Govt fringe benefits decline ( and those tax credits go bye bye after 200,000 cummulative sales ) and Californias emissions credits closes, tesla will have to self sustain on their vehicular sales...and since they arent making any profits now, how exactly is that going to change?....drastic price increases? ( so much for the 35k gamechanger ).....the larger the price of entry, the smaller the market.....thats thin ice IMO....
      mavisky
      • 1 Year Ago
      So let's see. Fire 1 was a large piece of debris hit at freeway speeds that damaged the undercarriage of the car. Fire 2 was a high speed accident in which the vehicle actually took flight for a short distance. Fire 3 was a trailer hitch in the middle of the interstate at 80mph. No one was injured severely in any of these accidents, and yet the media keeps writing stories about them. In Atlanta we hear about 2-3 car-b-q's per day from gasoline powered vehicles and no one freaks out about them. It's like some sort of anti-electric car with hunt.
        Dean Hammond
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mavisky
        this is what happens when yopu promote yourself as the next coming...you undoubtedly become a target....
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