Tesla Explosion Goes Viral, Adds to Musk's Chinese Woes
As Tesla feverishly attempts to complete construction of a Chinese assembly plant and kick off production before the end of the year, a viral video isn’t helping the automaker’s reputation in that country.
Over the weekend, security camera video shot in a Shanghai parking garage emerged on China’s main social media platform, Weibo. The video shows a parked Tesla Model S lighting its own funeral pyre, sealing the fate of the high-end sedans parked alongside it.
As the West wakes up from a ham- or turkey-induced slumber, the video — which shows the pre-facelift Model S emitting white smoke from its undercarriage immediately before an explosion — has swept Weibo, with the Shanghai Daily ensuring its readers take note. The video is now the publication’s “pinned” tweet.
A video posted on Weibo yesterday showed a Tesla Model S parked in a garage in Shanghai starting to emit smoke. Shortly after, the vehicle exploded and burst into flames. 😱😱😱 @elonmusk @Tesla https://t.co/f7QEEldul6 pic.twitter.com/gTgZ4zniCd
— SHINE (@shanghaidaily) April 22, 2019
While lithium-ion batteries are volatile creations that burn furiously when breached and exposed to air, this usually only occurs after a high-speed crash deforms the underbody battery pack. We’ve seen numerous examples over the past several years. Fighting such fires are tricky, and the vehicle can reignite long after the stubborn blaze is extinguished.
Not all fires are the product of a collision, however. Reports emerged of Tesla vehicles catching fire on their own, including last year’s incident in Los Angeles involving actress Mary McCormack — an event General Motors turned into a PR opportunity. Thankfully for McCormack, that fire wasn’t as explosive as the one seen in Shanghai.
“We immediately sent a team onsite and we’re supporting local authorities to establish the facts. From what we know now, no one was harmed,” Tesla said in a statement reported by Reuters.
The viral video comes on the heels of a dismal quarter in which Tesla deliveries fell 31 percent, with production at its Fremont, California actually dropping compared to the previous quarter. Tesla found itself forced to cut vehicle prices in China late last year to offset a tariff-imposed markup. Meanwhile, a labelling mix-up in the first quarter of 2019 saw Chinese customs officials bar entry to 1,600 Model 3s.
The model went on sale in China in January, but the company would prefer selling those customers a domestically-produced version to avoid tariffs and lower its entry price. In early April, Tesla opened orders for its cheapest vehicle yet — the Model 3 Standard Range, this one with standard AutoPilot. Price? 377,000 yuan ($56,182).
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