The Tesla, the high-performance, all-electric sports car, continues its seemingly never-ending spotlight position in the auto industry.
In a short time span, it’s has received the highest safest rating in automotive history and it has exploded in a fiery mess on the side of the freeway exit in Kent, Washington.
The latest and potentially damaging scenery for the Tesla and its controversial owner Elon Musk occurred in early October in Kent, Wash. A Tesla S caught on fire in an accident when the car’s driver told the police he hit metal debris.
The Tesla model S was destroyed and the inferno was filmed by two nearby witnesses on a smartphone whose voices seemed to echo would-be characters on Saturday Night Live.
The New York Times, which has been critical of the Tesla via one of its handful of auto writers, joined the onslaught of media covering the burning Telsa.
According to the newspaper’s Oct. 4 edition, the accident “poses a serious challenge for Tesla and, at the same time, prompts new questions about the safety of lithium-ion batteries in electric cars.”
The Times report continued: “But the larger issue will be how Tesla handles the intense scrutiny from the fire, including a likely investigation by federal regulators.”
“Tesla was a success story where everything was going their way,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with the auto-research firm Kelley Blue Book, told the newspaper. “The question now is, how do they deal with this adversity?”
Musk, the company founder who earlier announced plans to drive across the country with his five sons in a Tesla, hasn’t comment. A company spokesman reported only:
” . . The Model S in Washington hit a ‘large metallic object’ that damaged one of the modules in its liquid-cooled battery pack, which is situated on the underside of the vehicle.”
One irony: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will likely not comment on the Tesla fire soon. The NHTSA is part of the Transportation Department, which is not open via the U.S government shutdown.
According to the Kent Fire Department incident report, the fire appeared to be concentrated in the car’s engine compartment.
Initial attempts to douse the fire were unsuccessful. “The fire appeared to be extinguished, then reignited underneath the vehicle,” the report read.
Firefighters used a jack to turn the Model S on its side, and then cut a hole in the car to apply water to the burning battery.
Analysts said the seemingly routine nature of the accident made the fiery aftermath all the more frightening.
Quoted in the New York Times, Jason Vines, an industry consultant who was head of communications at the Ford Motor Company when its Explorer S.U.V.’s equipped with Firestone tires became prone to disastrous rollovers, said:
“You have to respond openly and honestly with the public, and work through this with NHTSA. “This could be another stake in the heart of electric vehicles. It is inevitable that some people are going to say they are just not ready to go on the road.”