This week Tesla has been making headlines in ways it would rather not, but with regard to news about fires, this is now two for two – two owners of burned Model S sedans, that is, who quickly turned around and wrote their car saved them, and they want another one.
The first fire on Oct. 2 (pictured above) involved a Model S driven by Robert Carlson in Washington state that struck metal debris on the highway which ruptured the battery encased in the “skateboard” chassis’s floor.
The next day Carlson corresponded via e-mail with Tesla and he then gave permission for Tesla to reprint it. In the e-mail linked here and included along with a blog post by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Carlson – saying he is also an investor in the company – wrote, “I am still a big fan of your car and look forward to getting back into one.”
Now today it’s more of the same, and then some.
This afternoon a more-thorough testimonial in the form of a complete blog post was published to Tesla’s Web site. It was bylined by Juris Shibayama, MD, whose Model S caught fire this week in Tennessee. In it, he said, “I would buy another one in a heartbeat.”
Shibayama’s car caught fire in an incident very similar to Carlson’s – this time involving his riding over a trailer hitch lying on the highway that struck the underside of his Model S.
In part due to the nearly identical nature of the two incidents that happened within five weeks of each other, eyes are still on Tesla however.
Federal investigators are following up, Tesla owners have suggested ideas and potential modifications to protect their cars’ undersides, if proven necessary, but now both owners have offered written endorsements for the car’s safety.
Tesla has enjoyed strong support from numerous fans, and its first owners have been among the strongest, having put their money down on the innovative electric cars.
To say Tesla is as much a cause as it is a company would not be considered an overstatement to many observers, and well-wishers have said they want Tesla to beat the odds and secure long-term success.
Following is Shibayama’s entire blog post reprinted without editing:
I was driving home from work on the interstate in the right lane at approximately 70 miles per hour, following a truck. In the middle of the lane, there was a rusty three-pronged trailer hitch that was sticking up with the ball up in the air. The truck in front of me cleared the object. I did not have enough time to swerve to avoid the hitch, and it went below my car. I felt a firm “thud” as the hitch struck the bottom of the car, and it felt as though it even lifted the car up in the air. My assistant later found a gouge in the tarmac where the item scraped into the road. Somewhat shaken, I continued to drive.
About 30-45 seconds later, there was a warning on the dashboard display saying, “Car needs service. Car may not restart.” I continued to drive, hoping to get home. About one minute later, the message on the dashboard display read, “Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down.” I was able to fully control the car the entire time and safely pulled off the left shoulder on the side of the road. I got out of the car, and started to get all my belongings out. About 5-10 seconds after getting out of the car, smoke started to come from the front underbody of the car. I walked away from the vehicle to a distance of about 100 yards. More smoke started to come out of the bottom of the car, and about two minutes after I walked away, the front of the car caught on fire.
I am thankful to God that I was totally uninjured in any way from this impact. Had I not been in a Tesla, that object could have punched through the floor and caused me serious harm. From the time of impact of the object until the time the car caught fire was about five minutes. During this time, the car warned me that it was damaged and instructed me to pull over. I never felt as though I was in any imminent danger. While driving after I hit the object until I pulled over, the car performed perfectly, and it was a totally controlled situation. There was never a point at which I was anywhere even close to any flames.
The firemen arrived promptly and applied water to the flames. They were about to pry open the doors, so I pressed my key button and the handles presented and everything worked even though the front of the car was on fire. No flames ever reached the cabin, and nothing inside was damaged. I was even able to get my papers and pens out of the glove compartment.
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.
Juris Shibayama, MD