|How Tesla Found Itself on the Defense|
By Michael Comeau NOV 21, 2013 9:30 AM
Tesla's status as a media darling is waning, and the company isn't handling that well.
And in the case of the November 6 fire, the actual owner of the car posted the following on the Tesla blog:
A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank and is divided into 16 modules with firewalls in between. As a consequence, the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.
The nationwide driving statistics make this very clear: there are 150,000 car fires per year according to the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans drive about 3 trillion miles per year according to the Department of Transportation. That equates to one vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to one fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are five times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!
I am thankful to God that I was totally uninjured in any way from this impact. Had I not been in a Tesla, that object could have punched through the floor and caused me serious harm. From the time of impact of the object until the time the car caught fire was about five minutes. During this time, the car warned me that it was damaged and instructed me to pull over. I never felt as though I was in any imminent danger. While driving after I hit the object until I pulled over, the car performed perfectly, and it was a totally controlled situation. There was never a point at which I was anywhere even close to any flames.
There’s no upside to potential safety issues with an emerging technology like electric cars, but these are very effective responses, considering the situation.
And Then There Was That Whole Earnings Thing...
On November 5, Tesla reported third-quarter earnings, but with expectations sky-high, investors were disappointed with the company’s profitability and pace of vehicle deliveries.
Combined with the safety issues that had been driving volatility in the stock, the financial disappointment put real fear in the hearts of the bulls.
You can see it in this chart, which shows the 38% decline off the high
A Crisis of Confidence?
On November 18, Musk wrote a new blog post entitled "The Mission of Tesla," where he did two things.
First, he correctly pointed out that there has been disproportionate media coverage of the Tesla fires:
Since the Model S went into production last year, there have been more than a quarter million gasoline car fires in the United States alone, resulting in over 400 deaths and approximately 1,200 serious injuries (extrapolating 2012 NFPA data). However, the three Model S fires, which only occurred after very high-speed collisions and caused no serious injuries or deaths, received more national headlines than all 250,000+ gasoline fires combined. The media coverage of Model S fires vs. gasoline car fires is disproportionate by several orders of magnitude, despite the latter actually being far more deadly.
And secondly, he announce three important actions: The company rolled out a software update that would result in greater ground clearance at highway speeds, requested an investigation from the NHTSA, and amended its warranty policy to cover fire damage, even in the event of driver error.In response, the NHTSA directly contradicted Tesla’s claim of requesting an investigation with this statement:
An NHTSA filing indicates that the investigation was opened on November 15:
NHTSA's decision to open any formal investigation is an independent process. In regards to Tesla, the agency notified the automaker of its plans to open a formal investigation and requested their cooperation, which is standard agency practice for all investigations. The automaker agreed to do so.