Tesla CEO defends electric cars after battery fire

Fri Oct 4, 2013 6:51pm EDT
 
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By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O: Quote), defended the safety performance of electric cars on Friday, three days after a battery fire in a Tesla Model S helped sparked a decline in the automaker's market value.

"For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery" than a conventional gas-powered vehicle, Musk said in a blog post on Tesla's website.

Tesla shares fell more than 5 percent this week, the sharpest weekly decline since mid-August, after images and a video emerged Wednesday of a Model S on fire after an accident near Seattle Tuesday morning.

The fire occurred after the driver struck a large metal object on the highway. The object punched a hole three inches in diameter through the quarter-inch armor plate protecting the battery pack with a peak force of about 25 tons, Musk said.

The alert system onboard the Model S instructed the driver to pull over and he left the vehicle before the fire broke out. There were no injuries.

The video of the burning car was posted online Wednesday by auto blog Jalopnik and has been widely disseminated by other media. News of the accident sparked a sharp decline in the company's stock on Wednesday and Thursday.

Shares rebounded Friday and were up 4.4 percent at $180.98 on the Nasdaq.

The accident that led to the fire stemmed from a "highly uncommon occurrence," Tesla's head of sales and service, Jerome Guillen, said in an email exchange with the owner of the damaged Model S that was included with Musk's post Friday.   Continued...

 
Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla's new battery swapping program in Hawthorne, California in this June 20, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files