The leader of upstart automaker Tesla Motors says he is confident that its Model S electric car is safe and will be cleared by a federal investigation into the two US battery fires.
CEO Elon Musk said the fires, which occurred when metal road debris pierced the underbody of the cars at highway speeds, are extreme cases. He doesn’t expect a recall and said his engineers are not working on any fixes for the battery-powered cars.
“In both cases it was a large piece of metal essentially braced against the tarmac,” Musk said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “I’m not saying it can’t happen again,” he said. “I’m saying in any kind of low-speed impact, you’re fine. Any car, Model S or not Model S, the underside is going to get significantly damaged if you drive over a large metal object.”
No one was hurt in the fires, which began in the batteries and happened along freeways near Seattle and Nashville. Another fire happened in Mexico after the driver ran through a concrete wall at more than 100 mph. In the Seattle case, the Model S hit a curved truck part. The car hit a trailer hitch in the Nashville crash.
As nobody was hurt in all cases, the only other reason to investigate is economic loss from the fires, but that’s not an issue because Tesla amended its warranty to cover fire loss in crashes, Musk also said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. government’s auto safety watchdog, announced on Tuesday that it would investigate the U.S. fires to see if there’s a safety problem in the Tesla design. NHTSA said it would “examine the potential risks associated with undercarriage strikes.” The investigation could lead to a recall, but a decision likely is months away.