Tesla’s third fire: Model S owner says “I would buy another one in a heartbeat”

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.




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  • Kofi

    Wow I am gonna get one . I am impressed.

    • Panelo

      I am getting one, too. I am sick of essentially paying taxes to corrupt oil barrons in this country and in the mid-East.

  • Christopher S. Johnson

    How can any conclusion be made without comparing this to a gasoline car with similar amount of vehicles on the road? I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts this rate is much, much less than the gasoline fires. The Tesla S got the highest safety ratings possible in government testing.

    • Phil11

      You are correct. There are about 152,000 ICE car fires a year. The Tesla is much less likely to have a fire than an ICE car.

      • b9

        Given the 2011 figures of vehicle fires (available from nfpa), approximately 513 gas/diesel powered vehicles catch fire every day. Interestingly, as a percentage of the cars on the road, the rate that Tesla cars have caught fire (3 in eight weeks divided by the number of cars (about 30000) according to Wiki, = 6.5e-4) is approximately the same as the rate for gasoline cars – 187000 fires divided by 250million cars = 7.5e-4 . One big difference is, according to the same agency report, in those 513 daily car fires, five people a week are killed as a direct result of the fire. Given 3 in eight weeks, statistically there will be 19 Tesla fires total this year – and no doubt the nay-sayers and the motoring press will report on every one of them. Let’s hope the drivers all escape injury.

  • Chris Doyle

    If anyone doesn’t want one, send it my way 🙂

  • CharleyX

    I know someone with a Volt. When they want to drive to our next largest town, 60 miles away, they rent a car, lol. I think I’ll stick to my Prius.

    • Tommaso Esmanech

      Volt is an EV with gas for extended range. You probably don’t have all the right info.

    • sam johnston

      lol…..the Volt isn’t totally electric goon. Do your research so you don’t seem like an idiot.

    • Phil11

      You are too dumb to understand the Volt is a hybrid (though a plug-in hybrid) and has almost the exact same range as a Prius. LOL.

      • CharleyX

        I am very familiar with the workings of Volts. I am just stating how my neighbors drive theirs.

        I used to work for EDS when it was owned by GM. I maintained computer software for Chevrolet. GM was and probably still is one of the worst run companies in the USSA.

        I wouldn’t own a GM product if they were giving them away. I have a Toyota (a Prius) and two Hondas (a full-dress Accord and a GoldWing) in my garage. None of them seem to have problems catching fire. I plan to put 200,000 miles on all three before replacing them. Do people still dump their domestic brand cars when they hit 80,000 miles? I wouldn’t know. I haven’t owned one since 1975. Great cars back then, too.

        • Phil11

          Fact: Your cars are much more likely to catch fire than any Tesla.

          Fact: There are over 152,000 ICE car fires every year. Those fires cause over 200 deaths and about 1000 injuries while the Tesla has had ZERO with about 6 years on the road and 130 million miles driven.

          Fact: You are much safer in a Tesla.

          Fact: Hondas have fire issues.

          Direct from the LA Times:

          Honda to recall more than 143,000 Cars for potential fire risk.

          You also might want to check your brakes…

          Direct from the Guardian:

          Toyota has recalled 242,000 Prius cars because of faulty brakes.

          Fact: No Teslas seem to be having problems with their brakes.

  • Tommaso Esmanech

    I love my tesla. Safety means that I can walk away unharmed after an accident. Tesla does just that!

    • jwtn

      I think what tesla needs to do is add a 2nd layer of protection (maybe a carbon fiber sheet) with shock absorbers and padding between the 2 layers.

  • sam johnston

    Little too late. Now the media has the perception ingrained in the general public’s conditioned brain to feel the Tesla is dangerous. Thanks

  • Fooyoo

    Road debris?! This was a 3 prong tow hitch that was on the highway, that the driver hit at 70 mph! The driver is eternally gratefull to the car and even wrote a blog to that effect. What other backing for Tesla could possibly want? So, now, its just a matter of pressure from folks that dont want to see Tesla succeed, not people who have anything objective that Tesla is, in any way, unsafe. The model S achieved the highest safety rating in the toughest government testing of any vehicle in history, ever, period. You might as well say that government testing is useless and all cars of all makes are dangerous and need to be replaced by mules. Its sickening to see that a company that is as good at what it does as Tesla, with the highest overall rated vehicle in the history of cars, is being systematically targetted. Why? Because some politicians, bankers, “analysts”, and car companies are having trouble adapting. This type of thing has been going for the past year : from “journalists” trying to trash Tesla cars to a “bank analyst” trying to artificially devalue the Tesla business model. This getting old and consumers can see right throught it. Tesla is here to stay because they are the best and consumer choice dictates it so. That law firm looking to make a buck from the accidents that the couple Tesla drivers got themselves into, what a disgraceful move. Tesla and Elon Musk are a class act, and have set the new gold-dtandard for the auto industry, and reset America’s top spot on the car world. This is the time to give them our full support. They are creating jobs, reducing our dependance on middle east oil, helping stabilize the economy, making travel free once you own a Tesla. I will actively avoid banking, voting for, buying, or otherwise conducting business with anyone who participates in the organized crime that is being directed Tesla’s way as we speak- just because they are so good at what they do. Elon Musk, thank you for the awsome cars and the clean air!

  • Panelo

    Now just imagine what would have happened if a three-prong tow hitch (THOSE THINGS ARE NEARLY AS BIG AS CARS) impaled a gas tank?

    The Tesla in the Yucatan went through a concrete wall and then hit a tree.

    Both drivers in the accidents survived.

    I would love to see any brave anti-Tesla reporter take a gasoline-powered sedan and drive through a concrete wall and hit a tree at freeway speeds. You can bet they will no longer be dissing Tesla.

    Tesla is going to bankrupt all those corrupt middle-Eastern Emirs. We are getting a glimpse of a much happier future for the world.