Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Tesla Motors, named after the famed inventor Nikola Tesla, has had a number of setbacks in the United States. The resistance to electric cars has been difficult for the company to overcome, and Tesla's refusal to use traditional dealerships has outlawed their sale in states like Texas. Tesla underwent another huge setback when several of its most visible cars, the Model S, caught on fire.
According to the news reports three Model S cars have caught fire within a week. While this is a relatively small number compared to the thousand plus vehicles that Tesla currently has on the road, it is significant enough that people have noticed. The media coverage has been intense, but despite all of the theories about how the vehicles caught fire, from people arguing that electric cars are inherent death traps to those who are citing mechanical problems with this particular model, there is still relatively little evidence about what happened. At present at least two of the three fires are being explained as road debris hitting the underside of the vehicles' and sparking the fire.
What's Being Done?
The fires have resulted in some serious investigations on behalf of the government, as well as steps being taken by Tesla Motors to try and correct the problem. The National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration, or NHSTA, is investigating what is causing the problems with the Model S, and if those problems are severe enough to warrant a recall. This investigation was not started at the behest of Tesla Motors, but was undertaken independently.
As to what Tesla Motors is doing, they have a double pronged strategy. On the one hand the company has added fire protection to its warranty, ensuring that any drivers who experience fires as a result of driving their vehicles will have those repairs taken care of. Additionally, because at least two thirds of the fires in question seem to have been caused by road debris and the resulting damage to the batteries, Tesla is altering their cars' software to increase the height the Model S sits up from the road. The hope is that this will help prevent future fires and keep drivers safe.
With traditional auto makers not yet up to snuff on making electric cars that people want to drive, there's been a lot of hemming and hawing about Tesla Motors and their products. The company came out of nowhere, and it seemed to be shining a light on what car manufacturers could be doing to take drivers off fossil fuels and to present ecologically friendly cars. These three fires, combined with some bad PR moves on behalf of Tesla (such as the CEO claiming he asked for the government investigation when he did not) have eaten into the company's profits and stock price.
While this single incident doesn't seem to be enough to sink Tesla as a company, it is being capitalized on by its competitors. Tesla Motors is going to have to fight back hard to win the trust of its customer base, and to bounce back from all the bad press received.
This post was written by Max Wolff who works at Linear Automotive. Max is a car enthusiast, passionate basketball fan and a hip hop junkie. He enjoys blogging on a variety of automotive related topics.