A third Tesla Model S caught fire this week, this time in Tennessee. And just like the last two times in Washington and Mexico, Tesla is rolling out all the stops on defense. Model S owner Juris Shibayama just threw up a blog post on Tesla's website, saying "I would buy another one in a heartbeat."
This makes Tesla three for three on the "oh yeah they'd totally buy another one" strategy, which is impressive. In fairness, though, despite three Tesla conflagrations in relatively rapid succession, all occupants have escaped without harm and it's not terribly unusual for cars to catch fire.
What is unusual about this fire is that it seems to have resulted from extremely similar circumstances to the first Model S engulfment, in that an object from the road appeared to have pierced the "armored" undercarriage, causing the batteries to go up in flames:
I was driving home from work on the interstate in the right lane at approximately 70 miles per hour, following a truck. In the middle of the lane, there was a rusty three-pronged trailer hitch that was sticking up with the ball up in the air. The truck in front of me cleared the object. I did not have enough time to swerve to avoid the hitch, and it went below my car. I felt a firm "thud" as the hitch struck the bottom of the car, and it felt as though it even lifted the car up in the air. My assistant later found a gouge in the tarmac where the item scraped into the road.
Shibayama goes on to credit Tesla's design with saving his life, saying that if he had been in any other vehicle, it would have punched through the floor and caused him "serious harm."
Unfortunately the NHTSA does not maintain statistics on impalement-from-random-road-objects scenarios, so its impossible to verify this statement. We here at Jalopnik don't hear about it very often, though, so it's a remarkable coincidence that two out of the three Model S fires were caused by extremely similar circumstances. That being said, it bears repeating that car fires happen quite frequently, and as of right now nothing seems too amiss.
If Shibayama's next car is again impaled by a random road spike and it goes up in flames, I'm calling shenanigans, though.
The full blog post is below:
From a Tesla Model S Owner in Tennessee
I was driving home from work on the interstate in the right lane at approximately 70 miles per hour, following a truck. In the middle of the lane, there was a rusty three-pronged trailer hitch that was sticking up with the ball up in the air. The truck in front of me cleared the object. I did not have enough time to swerve to avoid the hitch, and it went below my car. I felt a firm "thud" as the hitch struck the bottom of the car, and it felt as though it even lifted the car up in the air. My assistant later found a gouge in the tarmac where the item scraped into the road. Somewhat shaken, I continued to drive.
About 30-45 seconds later, there was a warning on the dashboard display saying, "Car needs service. Car may not restart." I continued to drive, hoping to get home. About one minute later, the message on the dashboard display read, "Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down." I was able to fully control the car the entire time and safely pulled off the left shoulder on the side of the road. I got out of the car, and started to get all my belongings out. About 5-10 seconds after getting out of the car, smoke started to come from the front underbody of the car. I walked away from the vehicle to a distance of about 100 yards. More smoke started to come out of the bottom of the car, and about two minutes after I walked away, the front of the car caught on fire.
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.
The firemen arrived promptly and applied water to the flames. They were about to pry open the doors, so I pressed my key button and the handles presented and everything worked even though the front of the car was on fire. No flames ever reached the cabin, and nothing inside was damaged. I was even able to get my papers and pens out of the glove compartment.
This experience does not in any way make me think that the Tesla Model S is an unsafe car. I would buy another one in a heartbeat.
Juris Shibayama, MD
Photo via Tesla Motors Club Forum