Tesla Model S fire
John Goreham's picture

Another fire involving a Tesla Model S comes just days before earnings report

The latest Tesla Model S related garage fire does not seem to involve the charging system, road debris, or the home wiring. What could it be this time?

Reports emerged today of another garage fire involving a Tesla Model S. This one is in Toronto and if reports prove true, neither the vehicle’s charging system, nor the home’s electrical wiring are to blame. Is that good news or bad news if you are a Tesla owner, stockholder, or fan?

According to news reports, this new fire did not occur while the Tesla Model S was charging. Imagine the relief at Tesla headquarters. Rather, the owner had just returned home from a drive and did not plug the car in. That seems odd, but we will trust the reports. After hearing smoke detectors the owner called the fire department which came and put out the fire. CNBC news quoted the Toronto Fire Services as saying the origin of the fire “was in the engine area” of the car, but that the source of the fire was unclear. Our guess is that the person who made that claim meant the front of the Tesla Model S. Not to pick nits, but the electric Model S does not have an engine, but rather and electric motor, and it is in the very rear of the vehicle, hung out over the rear axle. Our look at photos (shown here) printed by Business Insider seem to confirm the fire was in front of the vehicle, but the photos are limited, so we cannot say for sure.

Tesla spokesperson Liz Jarvis-Shean was quoted as saying “"We don't yet know the precise cause, but have definitively determined that it did not originate in the battery, the charging system, the adapter or the electrical receptacle, as these components were untouched by the fire." As has become the norm, Tesla is immediately certain what parts of its product are not to blame, but offers no insight into what parts were. This confident response by Tesla denying any responsibility is starting to get sort of stale.

The last Tesla garage fire, which happened on November 15th, 2013, occurred while a Tesla Model S was charging. Tesla denied that the charger or any of its components had anything to do with that fire. As a result of the fire NHTSA announced what it calls a “recall” for the Model S. We are sensitive to the concerns of our Tesla fans who are readers, so until NHTSA has a new word for what it did, we will have to use the phrase “event formally known as a recall.” The event formally known as a recall involved two things. First, replacement of the adapter used when charging. Our informal poll of owners last week did not result any “Yes” answers when we asked if they have received their new parts yet. The other part of the event formally known as a recall was an over the air software update to help prevent overloading a home’s electrical system in certain circumstances while the Model S charges. Our exclusive report on the first garage fire determined that the home had not had an electrical work permit or building inspector's review of the work.

So far by our count, two Tesla have burned after hitting road debris, one crashed into a wall and caught fire, one was charging and a fire occurred, and now one was sitting in a garage not charging and a fire occurred. That is about one fire for every 4,000 Teslas in North America. After each event Elon Musk does some quick math and he tells us how much more likely an internal combustion engine equipped car is to catch on fire. With about 16 million new ICE cars sold each year in the US, and a huge number of older ICE cars on the road, and only a little over a thousand Model S cars being added to the mix each month in the US, his math may soon reach the tipping point where the Model S is no longer less likely to burn. Mr. Musk also does not point out that he isn’t offering for sale an econo-box, but rather the best automobile on Earth, priced accordingly.

After previous fire reports Tesla Stock has moved. It will be interesting to see if the stock continues its record climb towards $200 per share. Tesla’s Q4 2013 earnings report is due next week.

As has been our practice of late, we offer a photo of a Model S not on fire from its public site, so as not to sensationalize the story more than necessary. The link mentioned above does have pictures of the fire.

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Did a brand-new Tesla spontaneously combust? Tesla fabricates more excuses than it does cars. In the Toronto Tesla garage fire it is doubtful that the Tesla charger system is at fault because it allegedly wasn't plugged in. Tesla offering to pay damages, suggests that the source of the fire was the Tesla model S. I would be interested in seeing the fire department's investigation. I don't trust Tesla's so-called "investigations", they are more like denial and blame games. The Tesla model S. still has defects that make it a is under invasion hazard. Tesla charger connections are still overheating, melting and burning. Tesla batteries are poorly located and poorly protected. On 1/9/2014 Elon Musk said that replacement adapters that are part of the recall would be mailed out within two weeks. A month later Tesla customers have still not received the replacement adapters that are part of the Tesla model S. recall. Tesla is big on making promises and hype, but short on delivery. Tesla needs to start making safety a top priority. Tesla needs to stop playing blame games and games with semantics. Tesla needs to stop lying. Tesla needs to be proactive instead of reactive. Tesla is being a follower of technology, rather than a leader. The Tesla model S. is an E-Pinto. Tesla and Tesla fan boys have a bad record when it comes to safety. They have a tendency to hype safety, yet they sweep safety concerns under the carpet and drag their feet to resolve safety issues. That is not a culture of safety.
Jim, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I wanted to approve your post, but I did remove some claims you made about injuries and a couple other negative name calling type statements. Feel free to send us a some news report links if you have them for the charger-related injuries you mentioned in the sections I edited out. I'm sorry to have edited (first time in 2 years) but I value your commentary and I think others will too as shown.
Wow, Jim...this seems a bit harsh. Comparing a Model S to a Pinto? I drive a Model S, and I received a firmware update immediately once it was determined that Tesla needed to help ensure that the charging compensated for any uneven current coming from the wall. Adapters are not a big deal because there is so much that can be done from the software and thru the charging system itself. They also made firmware changes to the suspension height at high speeds immediately upon that last debris incident. Though there is always room for improvement in any manufacturer's line of vehicles, I just can't say enough about how well this car handles, and how safe I feel when driving it. I believe you should take a ride in one and see what I'm talking about. Something tells me that you haven't prior to your commentary. If you can count on anything from Elon Musk and Tesla, it is that safety is the number one priority above all the bells and whistles that a high-end vehicle may have to offer. It is a spectacular ride, but it is a very, very safe car. I would tell you that there are many other cars out there that can't hold a candle to Model S where safety is concerned. Whatever caused this fire, there was also an ICE vehicle in there (Lexus) and no photos were shown of the damage to that car...not sure why. That vehicle actually had much more combustible material that could have been helpful in making this fire a reality. The photos of the Model S already tell me that it just doesn't seem to be related to the electrical/battery parts of the vehicle. Could be something else...we'll have to wait and see. When this car was coming to market, a big reason why it took so long is because they wanted to produce a vehicle that NHTSA rated at 5 stars in all categories...as well as production constraints. It was the most important thing to Elon Musk...he has 5 kids of his own, and he means to be able to take them in the car as safely as possible. There is a lot of attention to safety...period.
I'm glad we got both sides of the Tesla brand from a commenter. Thanks. I will point out though that although the news reports could prove to be inaccurate, the CNBC story reported that according to the Toronto Fire Service the fire started in the "engine area" of the Tesla.
Gosh why are you so interested in putting down Tesla? Just get a car that you think is better and leave us Tesla fans alone! When Tesla gets a NHTSA's highest safety rating how can you say that they have a bad record when it comes to safety? Compare that with 800,000 GM vehicles that were recalled because of defect that prevents airbags from deploying in a crash and resulted in at least 22 accidents with 6 fatalities. There has been no fatalities in a Tesla despite some pretty bad accidents.
I wonder about the veracity of the Business Insider article. The title is Another fire... Do we know of another Tesla that was involved in a fire while just parked? or is the author suggesting that this is in line with the previous 3 fires? And why does Business Insider have this article almost 2 weeks after the incident and apparently no Toronto newspaper picked it up until after the BI article? The BI article indicates that 7 Tesla employees showed up shortly after the fire and "The company also offered to take care of the damages and inconvenience caused by the fire, but the owner declined" but the Tesla spokes person does not indicate this and just saying that they are investigating the cause of the fire. Why would Tesla offer to take care of the damages if they haven't even determined the cause of the fire? Heck if that was the case, one can set their garage on fire with a Tesla in it and get Tesla to pay for it. Some on the Tesla Forum suggest that this was someone who wanted to affect Tesla stock prices... I don't know about that, but the article seems suspicious. I think someone should request an incident report from the Toronto Fire Department. I would but don't want to waste $75.
Hi Charlotte. So glad you commented. I agree with your suspicions. If CNBC had not said that the Toronto Fire Department confirmed the incident I would not have written this just based on the Business Insider Story alone. The Bloomberg link had the direct Tesla statement also.
I also saw on the Tesla Forum that a Model S owner had contacted Toronto Tesla and they confirm the fire, but have not yet determined the cause. Considering that the firefighters are looking at the "engine", I suspect that it was not related to the Tesla.
It is curious that one garage fire with a Tesla in it, though unclear the cause of the fire gets a mention. I just looked through 3 pages of Chevrolet articles on this website, but recall of over 300,000 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks for fires due to software problems gets no mention. In the latter, there were 8 fires including 4 parked at a dealership! Also interesting to note is that although evidently the problem is software, owners need to bring the vehicles back to the dealership to get the problem fixed taking 20 minutes. You won't find that type of recall with a Tesla software fix.
I understand what you are getting at and the point is valid. The point is "Why is every Tesla fire a news story?" The real answer is "What do people want to read?" Most news outlets are not operating as a public service, reporting all events all the time. They try to predict what people want to read (or will read) and then they provide that. People read Tesla fire stories. Right now I only cover Tesla and the Toyota family of brands. On Feb. 1st a recall for Toyotas was announced. The seat material used was not the right specification for fire resistance. No fires have occurred. Recall stories in general get no readership. The reason is there are so many for each brand people tune them out. In any case, I covered the story (link at end). Nobody cared. It received relatively little activity an no serious commentary. Similarly, when I covered all brands for TN I did track the Ford Escape. It ended up having 3 risk of fire recalls. Again, not much interest. So news media do cover fire related ICE car stories. The reality is that if 1 of every 4,000 2013 Camrys caught fire or caused a fire while in a garage about 45 of those would have occurred this past year. A NHTSA investigation would have been swift and comprehensive. Want proof? Look at the Toyota article I mentioned and copied below. Zero fires, yet a massive recall effort. The same was true of the Escape. Zero injuries from fires, yet 3 comprehensive recalls of huge numbers of cars. I will leave you with this. Should Teslas catch on fire or cause fires? Who answers yes to that? The wrongs of ICE cars should not be considered acceptable in cars with no liquid fuel that cost literally 3 times the cost of an average new car and about 7 times what people pay for the Nissan Leaf. http://www.torquenews.com/1083/toyota-halts-sales-corolla-camry-sienna-tundra-tacoma-and-avalon-over-seat-material - - http://www.torquenews.com/1081/2013-ford-escape-recalled-yet-again-fire-concerns - - http://www.torquenews.com/1083/ford-issues-strongly-worded-recall-2013-escape-16l-ecoboost-engine - - http://www.torquenews.com/1083/will-2013-ford-escape-be-branded-lemon By the way, this will be a news story for me in the coming week. "Why is every Tesla fire news?"
By that criterion (What do people want to read?) then this site could be the auto equivalent of National Enquirer.
Except the Enquirer doesn't have to substantiate any stories and can photoshop images all they'd like to make for eye-catching covers. Read many automotive magazines? You won't find a lot of stories about the 2% of Chevrolets that get recalled for "fire hazard" (not actual fires) there either. You will read about Teslas bursting into flames, though. Bit of a difference at the heart of each of those stories, don't you think?