Tesla Model S Fires Might Be a Big Deal—But Not For the Reasons Some Are Saying - 11/8/13

For the third time in six weeks, it has become apparent that a Tesla Model S, somewhere, somehow, caught fire. Consequently, for the third time in six weeks, the automotive world has entered a “Tesla Cycle,” which plays out as follows:

  1. News breaks that a Model S has caught fire, either via pictures posted online (LOOK! EXPENSIVE NEW CAR BURNING!) or through local reporters.
  2. Tesla issues statement to the effect of “Our cars are safe. Nobody was hurt. It was just road debris/concrete wall that punctured the battery pack and caused the fire.”
  3. Mainstream press picks up the story, presenting Tesla’s statement not to be alarmed without dissent, but still treating the fire as though there’s reason to be alarmed.
  4. Voices of reason emerge and remind that conventional cars are loaded with gasoline and frequently catch fire—especially when they drive over sharp objects or through concrete walls as the three fiery Teslas had.
  5. Tesla’s stock price takes a hit and mainstream press covers it, as though the stock wasn’t tremendously overvalued and due for some kind of correction anyway.
  6. Americans become hyper-vigilant in looking for burning Teslas to photograph.

This is a fatuous little feedback loop, but it overlooks entirely the million-dollar question: How did two Tesla Model S sedans catch fire from impacts with road debris?

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