By on April 22, 2019

tesla model-s-rear, image: Tesla Motors

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.


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).

[Image: Tesla]

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12 Comments on “Tesla Explosion Goes Viral, Adds to Musk’s Chinese Woes...”

  • avatar

    Fortunately it was an empty parking garage. Ever drive through a long tunnel like the one under the mountain on I-70?

  • avatar

    Yikes. OTOH, maybe the Audi owners should be thankful, given the opportunity to replace their cars with something better.

  • avatar

    That’s a scary-fast fire. Never seen a car go up in flames that fast.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Looks like Musk’s two most noteworthy companies are two for two on big explosions this weekend…

  • avatar

    Hmmmm..not a Tesla slappy, but seems like the camera was really well positioned right in front of the Tesla that self immolated? Just saying that plenty of folks in China rooting for failure for Elon and for anything American…

  • avatar

    There is a tear-down video on YouTube where they compare the key components of a Tesla Model 3 with a Bolt and i3, and the video shows everything on the Tesla is more thoroughly integrated and more lightly built, particularly the batteries. The tear-down people are very impressed with the Tesla, and it is obviously cheaper to build than the competitors, but you have to wonder if perhaps established automakers are being more conservative in their EV designs for good reason.

  • avatar

    For expensive fashion accessories, Teslas sure do like to self destruct.

    Anyone that buys a Tesla needs to be in an institution. Garbage cars from a garbage company run by a con man

  • avatar

    As they say in politics: “perception is everything!” Particularly of course in this age of social media. Products and services can be killed prematurely. If politics themselves haven’t already through regulations. Huawei has been framed as a collaborator with the Chinese government. More and more governments decide to let it build 5G infrastructure.

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