By on October 3, 2013

After photos were published of a Tesla Model S in Washington state burning following a collision, with a subsequent 9.1% dip in the price of Tesla stock, the company issued a statement. The car, “collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle,” the EV startup said. For the day, Tesla shares fell 6.2 percent, or $12.05, to close at $180.95 in New York trading on Wednesday. The decline was biggest one day drop in Tesla’s stock price since July 16. Analysts attributed the steep decline on their opinion that the stock was already overvalued, making it susceptible to any bad news.

The company said that the damage sustained was contained within the front end of the car, that the passenger compartment was not compromised in any way and that  the Model S performed as designed. “This was not a spontaneous event,” a Tesla spokesperson said. “Every indication we have at this point is that the fire was a result of the collision and the damage sustained through that.”

The driver, who was not injured, pulled over after the car informed him to do so, and then smelled something burning. After exiting the car he called emergency responders, who had some difficulty extinguishing the blaze. At first the fire appeared to be under control, but it reignited and when firefighters decided that water seemed to be intensifying the fire, they switched to a dry chemical fire extinguisher.

To put out the fire,  which took place in the front of the car after the driver hit some metal debris, disabling the car, firefighters first dismantled the front end of the Model S and put holes into the battery pack. When that wasn’t effective they used a circular saw to cut an access hole to the battery and extinguished the fire.

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22 Comments on “Tesla Model S Burns Causing Stock Price Jitters...”

  • avatar

    Picture? Try video:

  • avatar
    Brian E

    This was inevitable. No matter how many safety measures you design in, a battery pack is a big hunk of energy waiting to be released, just like a tank of gasoline is. I hope that a fair and independent investigation into the incident will be done to determine whether the fire was directly caused by the damage and what could be improved in the future.

  • avatar

    According to Jalopnik, “there was also a simultaneous and unrelated downgrade” of Tesla. If true, it seems far more likely that caused the drop in stock price, not the fire. IMO, wording an article to suggest that the fire was the cause is poor reporting.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, they were downgraded yesterday before the fire as the stock value is overpriced. I think the stock drop has more to do with the downgrade, and overall market jitters due to the government shutdown.

  • avatar

    And the money guys like to think that no emotion goes into their decisions? I see it affecting Tesla like few before, but I’ll also admit my bias, so maybe I’m blinded by the light. I’ll ask Manfred.

  • avatar

    I wonder why the other 194,000 vehicle fires this year won’t get the same level of coverage? One fire out of how many cars sold? How does this compare to a typical car?

    Haven’t seen a single outlet trying to put this occurence into context. Actually, I shouldn’t say that- Fox News lumped it in with the Volt crash test fires and the worldwide grounding of 787s to make it sound like everything with a lithium ion battery is a ticking time bomb.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen. Gasoline is far more flammable than lithium ion batteries, especially after a car hits something (or the owner neglects the car, or the manufacturer designs something poorly). Not to mention all the other petroleum based fluids used in a car.

      This news article is just flamebait (

      • 0 avatar

        Amen whatever…

        I did an experiment with a high power lithium ion pack.

        I shot it with steel bird shot.

        30sec later, it exploded in a nice little fireball.

        When the firemen have layed down water for another car fire (say if the oddball Tesla contacted the very common gasoline powered mobile, and both caught fire, and the mangled mess was inseperable at least initially), I can expect the Tesla to now flare up with the addition of water? Wonderful!

        Tesla has bet on the NHTSA tests to “prove” to the people their cars are the same as any other, only better. But they are covering up the simple fact that Lithium does not behave like gasoline, and not all highway crashes are a simple one car item.

        In the spirit of the progressives currently in control of our government, I think we should legislate and force at gun point, Elon Musk to include Halon fire extinguishing systems integral to all battery packs.

        What, you say, force the costs up on a progressive’s dream ride? NO WAY! Haha, so funny!

      • 0 avatar

        “Not to mention all the other petroleum based fluids used in a car.”

        Since they’re not very flammable.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll bite, and I’m pro-electric car.

      After Tesla pumped up their NHSTA crash test results about a month ago, their press machine, which as a marketing professional I feel could be a bit more, humble, made it a talking point that no Tesla in an accident has had a fire (wink, wink, GM and Fisker, wink, wink). When you make a bold statement, you make yourself a target. Sports figures who declare a win before the big game, technologists that predict game changing revolutions that never happen, economists who make huge predictions, and car companies who say, “hey, our cars don’t burn after an accident.”

      This would not prevent me from buying a Tesla – let me be clear. Also let me add, if this happened to a gas powered car, local Seattle media would have covered it.

      • 0 avatar

        agreed. They should have done more to let the car sell itself than spin NHTSA information.

        Every time there’s an accident or fire in a Tesla it is going to be news. The stock flying way past reality brought an extra level of scrutiny on the company.

        I think in a lot of ways Tesla is it’s own worst enemy. That’s coming from a fan of the company.

  • avatar

    I’m not a big fan of electric cars, but this wouldn’t bother me if I wanted one, no more than if any other car caught on fire. The only thing that gives me pause are the problems the firefighters had. Has anyone developed good methods to put out a lithium battery fire?

    • 0 avatar

      It wouldn’t me either, actually, even with my comment above. I would simply remove all the survivors that I could from wreck, move us 100 yards away, and notify 911 we weren’t hitting and running, just getting out of the way of the eventual furball fireball.

      I visit California occasioanlly, and several coworkers have them. Very slick, very nice rides. I think they are still having some quality issues — all owners I know are having problems in multiples, but eventually Tesla will learn quality control during assembly, in addition to the good software quality they already have (leave it to software folks to overlook the hardware :)).

  • avatar

    SH-167 from Renton to Puyallup is a God awful stretch of highway. I hate driving it. The Fast and Furious wannabe crowd drive recklessly with almost impunity. The highway seems to get scant attention from the WSP and it’s geographically path through Renton, Kent, Auburn, a sliver of Federal Way and Puyallup has it going through, mostly, so-so parts of Puget Sound. Lots of young guys in battered Asian vehicle of your choice (and the occasional equally battered VW or Plymouth/Dodge Neon) driving with utter disregard for anyone.

    I also have found this one of the most debris strewn section of highway in America. I constantly see lumber, packaging materials, garden tools, busted pieces of furniture, once a full size mattress, in the travel lanes. With Puget Sound’s traffic density brake and hold or swerve left/right is rarely possible, Brake and hold will likely have said Fast and Furious crowd drive through your trunk at 60 MPH, and Puget Sound drivers have turned driving in your blind spot into an art form. As amazing as it may seem, roll over it and hope for the best is usually the safest strategy on a list of bad choices,

    I hate driving SH-167, thankful I only have to twice a month, and I wish the WSP would crack down zero tolerance style and the WSDOT would actually patrol the road for debris every now and then.

  • avatar

    Yeah, this was totally unfounded and unwarranted, given the situation. Car gets into accident and the stock value drops? Not even remotely related.

    I cannot ever see myself driving one of these glorified electric golf carts but ANY car involved in an accident or collision can be made to self-immolate. All that is needed is damage to one or more critical areas.

    And we have plenty of precedence, don’t we? What would concern me is when a vehicle spontaneously self-ignites, like during a parade, or just driving on the road. Although we have plenty of examples of that too, that didn’t make the stock value plummet for those manufacturers.

    Has anyone chimed in on the Volt, yet? I bet people could even make a Prius self-ignite if the accident is severe enough.

  • avatar
    velvet fog

    So running over a piece of debris caused a pretty substantial fire. Wonder what running into another car or getting run into would do?

    That section of 167 is a mess because the entire valley from Puyallup to Renton is paved with warehouses and manufacturing businesses. Lots of big trucks dropping stuff all over.

    • 0 avatar

      Well as we saw in the crash testing, nothing.

      Debris punctured the battery pack. The fire, by design, was contained to the front of the car. The fire department did no service to the severity of it by pouring water on what was clearly a battery on fire.

  • avatar

    I’m glad the driver “Hit some metal debris”.

    Now Tesla can blame the whole thing on him and any money I lost today from my shares will be quickly recouped by the Model X debut.

    Buying and shorting their stocks is probably as close as I’ll ever go to “owning a Tesla” despite Elon Musk’s fantasies about putting one in every American’s driveway and getting me from California to New York in 2 hours via vacuum tube.

    As long as the HEMI exists, I’ll be there…

  • avatar

    The report I read had Tesla describing the fire as being ” a small fire contained in the front compartment”.
    It didn’t look small to me.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Air France Concorde Flight 4590 suffered the same fate when it struck a metal object on the runway.

    From now on, I’ll avoid large metal objects on the highway so my Leaf doesn’t blow up.

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