Tesla's third fire: Model S owner says

When the first Model S caught on fire, after an Oct. 1 accident in Washington State, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk defended the vehicle in a post on the company’s blog. When the second Model S fire occurred, in Mexico Oct. 18, it was largely viewed as a fluke: the accident occurred after the driver, who was speeding, crashed into a wall and a tree in the Yucatan Peninsula.

But now there’s a third fire, and this time Tesla is going all out:

Shibayama writes that he hit a three-pronged trailer hitch on the highway and felt a firm “thud” but continued to drive. Less than a minute later, a warning on the dashboard said “Car needs service,” followed a minute later by “Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down.” Shibayama pulled over, noticed smoke coming from the front underbody of the car, an walked about 100 feet away. Then the front of the car caught on fire.

“I am thankful to God that I was totally uninjured in any way from this impact,” wrote Shibayama. “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.”

Shibayama, an orthopedic surgeon and competitive eater, goes on to say that “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.”

The stock market has been spooked by the Tesla Fire headlines. After hitting an all-time high of $194 earlier this fall, shares closed Friday at $137.95. There’s also growing concern about Tesla’s ability to procure enough battery cells to ramp up production.

The first rule of public relations is disclose, disclose, disclose. By hearing directly from Shibayama, analysts and potential buyers of the all-electric Model S may feel more confident.

A Model S in Tennessee. Tesla Motors published the photo on its blog Saturday.

Dana Hull Dana Hull (252 Posts)

Dana Hull covers clean technology and energy policy for the San Jose Mercury News. She often writes about electric vehicles, the smart grid, the solar industry and California energy policy, from RPS goals to Gov. Jerry Brown's big dreams for distributed generation.