Minneapolis residents might find it interesting to know that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is investigating the safety of the Tesla electric car after the occurrence of a second fire. Both fires resulted from battery damage received after the car struck metal fragments in the road, but both drivers were warned of the damage by the cars and escaped injury. A third Model S post-collision fire happened in Mexico in October. Since the second fire, Tesla stock has dropped 37 percent.
The CEO of Tesla blogged that he requested the NHTSA to investigate even though the occurrence of fires with Tesla vehicles is much lower than that of gas-powered cars, and more than 99 percent of cars sold in the U.S. are gas-powered. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that there are 194,000 vehicle fires on roads annually, with most of those starting in the engine area and causing about 300 fatalities and 1,250 injuries.
The Model S batteries are situated under the passenger area and protected by a metal shield. The Tesla fires occurred when the batteries were damaged, which caused electrical arcing that produced sparks. The vehicle has a suspension that can be adjusted by computer, and the company has already raised the clearance of Model S vehicles that are at risk and plans to give drivers more control over ground clearance.
Automotive defects, such as stuck accelerators, brake problems and defective seat belts, can cause serious injuries or death to vehicle occupants. Inadequate responses on the part of the company to correct such issues might have long-term consequences. A lawyer may be able to help hold negligent manufacturers accountable for auto product liability by having the exact cause of and extent of any injuries examined before filing a claim.
Source: Daily News, “Tesla car battery fires probed by US safety agency”, Tom Krisher, November 19, 2013