As of the last official count, there are 19,000 Tesla Model S sedans on US roads. Three of those, as has been widely reported, have caught on fire after significant accidents. That means one in about 6,333 Model S sedans has caught fire, and none of those fires led to any injuries. By way of contrast, there were 172,500 gasoline-car fires in the States last year, which, according to the National Fire Protection Association, equals about one in every 1,450 vehicles on US roads.

In a move we'd describe as very baller, Tesla has amended the warranty to cover damage due to a fire, even if due to driver error.

Put more simply, as stated by Elon Musk in his latest posting on the official Tesla Motors blog, "You are more than four and a half times more likely to experience a fire in a gasoline car than a Model S! Considering the odds in the absolute, you are more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than experience even a non-injurious fire in a Tesla." While the assertion of dangerous lightning strikes may be just as spurious a correlation as those who claim the Model S is a burning inferno waiting to happen, the point is clear: You are quite unlikely to experience a fire in a Tesla Model S.

Still, Tesla has announced a new three-pronged approach to assuage Model S fire fears, the first of which is an over-the-air software update that will increase the car's ground clearance at highway speeds. This will hopefully make it less likely to impact debris on the road surface, which was the cause of two of three Model S fires.

Second, Tesla has "requested that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conduct a full investigation as soon as possible into the fire incidents," according to Musk, who had previously said a there would "definitely" not be a recall. While a recall still seems highly unlikely, Musk says that "if something is discovered that would result in a material improvement in occupant fire safety, we will immediately apply that change to new cars and offer it as a free retrofit to all existing cars."

Finally, in a move we'd describe as very baller indeed, Tesla has amended the warranty of its Model S sedan to cover damage due to a fire, even if due to driver error. "Unless a Model S owner actively tries to destroy the car, they are covered," says Musk.

Feel free to read Musk's complete blog posting for all the details and commentary at the official Tesla Motors site.


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  • 151 Comments
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      For those talking about the fact that the Model S is new. How about 10 years from now? Certainly older ICE cars have a greater chance of catching fire than a new car? Everyone would agree about that. The Model S will be just as likely to catch fire because of a heavy metal object but not catch fire because there is leaking oil and older fuel lines. In the long term the electric car will win out. And I'll even give you that the Model S hasn't been around for 10 years so we don't know what happens to it long term. I'm just bringing up an alternative discussion.
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        We do have a nice selection of up to 5 year old Tesla Roadsters to use for historic numbers that use a very similar battery chemistry. They have not proven to be prone to fires.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @raktmn
          C'mon. Jeff didn't specify "Tesla" roadsters, that was raktmn. :)
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @raktmn
          Of course that is what jeff meant.... Good thing none of those ten burst into flame. ;)
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @raktmn
          I'd love to see one of Jeff's 2003 Roadsters.
          jeff
          • 1 Year Ago
          @raktmn
          Actually ten year old roadsters...
      purrpullberra
      • 1 Year Ago
      I like Elon being so strident in his defense of the car as currently built. Standing behind your product which has been proven to be the safest car ever produced is exactly what Tesla should be doing. Still, it is wise to ask that the appropriate agencies investigate the crashes to confirm (or potentially not confirm) all of the testing that has been done. Clearing the car's reputation ASAP is important. It is almost certain that what will be found is that the car experienced a catastrophic crash and performed perfectly afterwards. IF there is anything else that makes sense to do for safety reasons Tesla seems willing to do it. In fact Tesla seems more willing than any other manufacturer to do the right thing in these instances. No other company has ever acted this responsibly and transparently about potential safety issues or recalls ever. I find it to be more continued fresh thinking that must be shocking to the rest of the industry. Can anyone remember any other car company to ask for/demand an investigation in a situation even close to this? I can't. Anyhow, the overreaction is in need of a corresponding push back using the honest truth and indisputable numbers and this is a good step in that direction. If there were any other tests to determine a cars safety I expect to hear about them in the attempt to prove whether the Tesla is safe or not. But as far as anyone knows this car is safer than anything else on the road.
        mikoprivat
        • 1 Year Ago
        @purrpullberra
        totally agree with you. Tesla will end up being even safer than before after they fix (if there is anything to fix) the bottom panel reinforcement. This investigation is going to make the car even more desirable.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mikoprivat
          @ Grendal For once, all of us, including purrpullberra, seem to be in furious agreement. I inclined to believe that these fires may just be an unfortunate co-incidental quirk of fate, and no further instances may occur for many years. However, because the vehicle is new, Elon Musk's initial defence of the model S was ill-judged from a PR viewpoint. It seemed arrogant and unbending, and being conducted via Twitter, lacked a certain...ah,.. gravitas. But this latest response, is totally appropriate and should settle the issue down.
      Dave D
      • 1 Year Ago
      So, we know that an article about Tesla's and fire is the only thing on the internet that gets as many comments as arguments about fuel cell vehicles LMAO!!!
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      Allaround
      • 1 Year Ago
      Once again AB doing everything they can to keep their Tesla stock from falling.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Allaround
        My stock seems to be doing well today too!
        jeff
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Allaround
        Yea that telling ing the truth thing is horrible....
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Allaround
        What a clever plot by Autoblog just to keep Tesla stock up! First AB created an Autoblog Green sister site years before Tesla went public, or even built their first car. Then they extensively covered every Volt, Leaf, Tesla, etc story that can be found on the internet for years. Finally, they got Elon Musk to release a truly newsworthy press release that is well worth blogging about, that completely fit into their ABG format they had been following for years. All of this just to keep Tesla stock prices at 400% higher than TSLA shares were worth 1 year ago today. Yes, AB/ABG must do this all just for the sake of TSLA stock prices. Amazing!!!
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Allaround
        It balances out with the frenzy of negative articles out there.
      Jaymes Watts
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yeah, that's hardly baller, that's called admitting your cars have propensity to catch on fire.
        npier598
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jaymes Watts
        Keep drinking that mainstream media koolaid there, Jaymes
        carboy55
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jaymes Watts
        Except they don\'t.
        Feurig
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jaymes Watts
        Except if they did "admit" that, they probably wouldn't extend warranty coverage to fires even due to driver error. If their cars had a high propensity to catch on fire, they'd be shelling out a lot of money in warranty claims - it wouldn't be worth the coverage on Tesla's part (since a fire-related warranty claim would easily mean a brand new Tesla).
      the.fog
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nice article. Tesla fanboy much?
        EXP Jawa
        • 1 Year Ago
        @the.fog
        Its news, in the media and everything. Even other news sources are reporting it! So its not like Autoblog is making this stuff up just to puff up Tesla...
      carboy55
      • 1 Year Ago
      500 car fires a day in America. Every day. 3 Tesla fires, one Volt fire, zero LEAF fires.... Thousands of ICE cars went up in flames over the past coiuple years and nobody raises an issue. The collective IQ of the sutomotive media needs improvement on this issue.
        Chris
        • 1 Year Ago
        @carboy55
        Yea, but how many of those ICE cars that caught fire were BRAND NEW?
          Domenick
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Chris
          New cars also burn. Sometimes for no apparent reason. http://www.dallasnews.com/business/columnists/terry-box/20130326-terry-box-freak-pickup-fire-on-test-drive-taught-me-vehicles-dont-burn-like-they-used-to.ece
      Brian
      • 1 Year Ago
      It's the press that's blowing up the image of a burning Tesla. I must say, I commend Elon for going the extra TWO miles for allowing the warranty to cover fires EVEN due to driver error. Tesla has now scooped up those customers that otherwise would have felt uncomfortable jumping the gun.. and how many Tesla's do they have to replace...? Not that many. Win, win. Good job Tesla for backing up your product.
      Brian Rautio
      • 1 Year Ago
      1 of 6,333 Teslas vs 1 in 1,450 other cars is not a fair comparison, as 100% of Tesla Model S are pretty much brand new, while all other cars on the road are vastly different ages and in vastly different conditions. Don't get me wrong, I think the Model S is awesome and would buy one in a heartbeat if I had the funds.
        Andy Smith
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Brian Rautio
        So 5 Ferrari 458's crash a few years ago in the space of a few months with 2-3k Ferrari's sold that year and everyone mentions the "not accurate comparison" of 20 year old jalopys
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Brian Rautio
        How about fires per injuries and death. Fire is unimportant if you are perfectly safe afterwards.
          m_2012
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          After an accident, its really unimportant. Cars catch fire all the time after accidents. Id rather be safe and go pick up a brand new Model S, then to wait for that one to be repaired. Let it burn!
          Actionable Mango
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          Unimportant? No. Less important, perhaps.
        vince
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Brian Rautio
        Exactly, the fire rate need to be normalized to some standard, like fires per x miles driven, or fires per x number of accidents.
          foci
          • 1 Year Ago
          @vince
          It could be a simple as fires per road debris collisions.
          EXP Jawa
          • 1 Year Ago
          @vince
          Or possibly the number of fires of vehicles sold new in the past year. If we're comparing new cars to new cars, then it becomes a bit more useful.
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      We can all argue about the numbers but the one significant one that stands out as different from normal is this: there have been a number of major accidents in Tesla Model S's and there have been no major injuries and no deaths in the car.. That one statistic says that the car is very safe. The battery pack might, and I emphasize might, be more prone to catch fire from getting punctured but that doesn't mean that it isn't safe. Elon and Tesla have stepped in to allay even people's irrational fears. All of which has been whipped up by the media. Which, to be honest, is a double edged sword for Tesla since they whip up the media when the news is something in their favor. Well done, Tesla and Elon.
      Rob J
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't mean to be a jerk or anything, but using numbers for total number of cars on the roads in the US is garbage. Any given Model S is at MOST 1 year old. I would like to know how many NEW cars catch fire every day.
        Feurig
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rob J
        Not sure why you were downvoted. You're just comparing apples to apples.
        raktmn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rob J
        Well, if you are going to get that picky, then you have to limit the comparison numbers to high performance gas vehicles that can do 0-60 in less than 4 seconds. Because performance cars are driven harder and have more heat problems that your typical granny in a Sentra. So far, the data is coming back that the fires are directly related to the fact that the Model S is very low slung on the highway, just like exotic performance cars, so that is your comparison group. When we start comparing to cars like that, it is very easy to find lots of examples of burning exotic gas cars that are brand new, or nearly new. Do I really need to list them, or do you get the point?
          Rob J
          • 1 Year Ago
          @raktmn
          Yes , you do. If you are going to present that as an argument you should probably back that up. And you might want to list the 458 fires, which, Ferrari recalled.
        m_2012
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rob J
        Lots of new cars catch fire. Have you not seen the slew of recalls lately, and those were after fires prompted a recall. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/15/us-autos-gm-recall-idUSBRE9AE0SO20131115 http://www.autoblog.com/2013/11/15/59k-chevy-malibus-recalled-fire-risks-faulty-defrosters/ 2.7 MILLION vehicles!! http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/06/18/chrysler-agrees-to-recall-jeeps-at-risk-fire/ http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/03/autos/la-fi-hy-autos-ford-recall-fire-risk-20130603 http://www.autoblog.com/2013/06/03/2013-ford-models-hit-with-trio-of-recalls-465k-for-fire-risk/ http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/06/16/general-motors-chevrolet-buick-saab-gmc-isuzu-suv-recall/2428061/ http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/business/09recall.html?_r=0 Orders to park outside! http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/06/28/honda-fit-fire-risk-recall-power-window/2474023/ 7 MILLION vehicles! http://www.usatoday.com/story/driveon/2012/10/10/toyota-recall/1624003/ I could do this all day. 200,000 vehicles burn every year, most of them NOT from accidents.
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