Tesla S Fire Pictures on Jalopnik Hurt Stock Prices

Tesla Model S WhiteTesla Motors has been in the news a lot lately and today they made headlines for all the wrong reasons. First, a set of pictures and a video surfaced on auto enthusiast news blog Jalopnik. The pictures show a black Tesla S on fire, the front end of the car looks to have been damaged badly and all reports appear to confirm that the driver hit and object in the HOV lane of State Route 167 near Seattle, WA.

Why A Car Accident Is Hurting Tesla Stock

If you haven’t seen the pictures of the smoldering Tesla S yet, you can view them here. They aren’t too dramatic, but the sheer sight of them had the market in a panic. Naturally, people waiting for the other shoe to drop on the well-designed and highly praised Tesla S thought this was it. It’s likely that many people suspected some sort of mechanical failure as being the cause of the fire. In actuality, the car had struck a large metal object in the road, began driving poorly, and pulled off the road. The driver got out of the car and it was at that time that he noticed a small fire burning in the engine compartment.

According to records posted on the Jalopnik website, the car’s fire appeared to come from the battery pack under the hood of the vehicle. When firefighters went to extinguish the flames they found that water exacerbated the situation and had to resort to a dry chemical extinguisher. Reports from both firefighters and a Tesla spokeswoman acknowledged that a substance inside the battery pack remained on fire and the car had to be torn apart to gain access to the battery pack, which also needed to be broken into in order to extinguish the burning material.

While this isn’t actually as big of a deal as people are making it out to be, it is an important factor to take into consideration. Any time there is a car fire the problem must be thoroughly asessed to ensure that there isn’t a structural or safety issue with the car itself. Unfortunately, due to the government shutdown, the agency responsible for conducting that research and analysis isn’t currently available.

The short term outcome of the Tesla S fire

While it will take some time to research and reassure investors and the public alike, Tesla stock felt the immediate result of this unfortunate accident as it fell 6 percent in conjunction with a rare analyst downgrade from “outperform” to “neutral” due to upcoming milestones that will present a notable risk to the company.

Should Buyers Beware of the Tesla S?

Tesla Manufacturing PlantAll reports state that the fire in the Tesla S was contained away from the passenger compartment and in this incident the driver was able to safely exit the vehicle with no issue. While more analysis is needed to confirm that it was not a safety or design issue inherent to the Model S that caused the fire, it’s safe to say that this accident could have been worse had it been in a traditional gasoline vehicle. One of the things that prevented the fire from being any worse was the highly praised design elements that kept the fire contained and small. A gasoline powered vehicle does not typically have a containment design element for something like a punctured gas tank. As many commenters across the web have mentioned, a punctured gas tank resulting from road debris would never be considered the manufacturer’s fault, so it is odd that the response to Tesla was so harsh.

Our own safety is ultimately our own responsibility. Use your best judgment and maybe wait for the full report on this incident before swearing off this or any other electric vehicle.

Concerned about car safety? Read about the Safest Cars of 2013.

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