Tesla’s Elon Musk not worried about regulators investigating Model S fires

Third Tesla Model S catches fire after hitting road debris.

Above: Third Tesla Model S catches fire after hitting road debris.

Image Credit: Twitter user @NASHVILLAIN_

It’s been a bumpy few months for electric car maker Tesla Motors.

While enjoying the highs of high customer satisfaction and continued praise for the Model S electric sedan, the company has also endured high scrutiny for a trio of accident-related fires in its vehicles.

CEO Elon Musk doesn’t seem worried, though. Despite an NHTSA investigation into the fires, he expects the cars to come through the investigations without issue.

As the Associated Press┬áreports, Tesla engineers aren’t even working on any mechanical fix for the issues–even if Musk admits that similar incidents may happen again.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration┬ásaid it would “examine the potential risks associated with undercarriage strikes” to determine whether the Model S has a safety problem–and whether any work should be carried out to correct it.

Musk maintains that the Model S’s real-world safety record still speaks for itself.

Despite Model S cars being involved in several violent accidents since going on sale–and indeed, the three fires–no person has yet been injured in one of the cars, and everyone has managed to walk away without issue. Several have credited the Model S for saving their lives.

That’s certainly the case in the Mexican incident, where a Model S caught fire after a high-speed smash through a concrete wall. But Musk also says that the other incidents–both caused by road debris puncturing the floor-mounted battery pack–could have been much worse in a regular car.

While a regular car may not have caught fire after running over metal road debris, the story might not be so pleasant for the passengers–as the objects could have come right through the floor and injured people.

Tesla deems the car’s quarter-inch-thick underbody shield sufficient to protect the battery in most cases, so this component will not be changed.

However, the speed at which the car’s air suspension squats down an inch for aerodynamics has now been increased, from 50 mph to 87 mph. This extra inch of ground clearance at higher speeds should minimize the risk of low objects becoming wedged against the road and hitting the car. A warranty will now cover fire damage, too.

Musk isn’t too worried about the company’s stock price either, which is 37 percent lower than it was prior to the first fire. It was always valued too high, he says, and the market is now correcting it.

It may be some time until we find out whether Tesla needs to change its vehicles though–the NHTSA’s decision could still be months away.

This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports.

More information:

Tesla's goal is to accelerate the world's transition to electric mobility with a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla designs and manufactures EVs and EV powertrain components. Tesla ha... read more »

Elon Musk SpaceX is the third company founded by Mr. Musk. Prior to SpaceX, he co-founded PayPal, the world's leading electronic payment system, and served as the company's chairman and CEO. PayPal has over twenty million customers in ... read more »

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