Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), under U.S. scrutiny for vehicle-fire risk, is seeking to head off a months-long investigation that could lead to expensive upgrades and longer-term damage to the image of electric cars.
Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said yesterday on his blog that the company made a software adjustment to its Model S sedan so it won’t ride as low to the ground at highway speed, reducing the risk of battery packs being punctured and catching fire after hitting objects in the road. His remarks preceded a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statement that it would investigate the Model S over two such fires.
Should regulators reject the software fix, they may order Palo Alto, California-based Tesla to install a thicker barrier of aluminum or a stronger metal in the Model S’s undercarriage. That would be much more costly and undermine Tesla’s claim to sell the safest U.S. car, one priced from $70,000 to more than $100,000.