Third Tesla fire brings call for U.S. inquiry image

We just brought you the report of the third Model S fire in five weeks. Now it seems the accident suggests U.S. regulators need to examine the luxury electric car, according to a safety advocate.

Shares of the Palo Alto, California-based carmaker led by Elon Musk slid 7.5 % to $139.77 at the close yesterday in New York after reports of the newest fire. That decline follows a 15 % drop Nov. 6 after the carmaker’s third-quarter results and fourth-quarter outlook disappointed investors. It was the biggest two-day plunge since Dec. 27, 2010.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “absolutely has to investigate” the Nov. 6 Tennessee incident, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, based in Washington, said in a phone interview.

A Model S driver struck a tow hitch in the middle of a lane on Interstate 24 near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, damaging the car’s undercarriage and causing the fire, said Dalya Qualls, a Tennessee Highway Patrol spokeswoman. The driver pulled the car over and was uninjured, she added.

The U.S. agency “will contact the local authorities who are looking into the incident to determine if there are vehicle safety implications that merit agency action,” declared Karen Aldana, a spokeswoman for NHTSA.

NHTSA declined to investigate a Model S fire in Washington state in October, the first such reported blaze, in which metal debris was involved.

Tesla, the best-performing automotive stock this year, has been under scrutiny as Chief Executive Officer Musk works to create the world’s biggest and most profitable seller of electric cars. Even with this week’s declines, Tesla shares have surged more than fourfold this year after reporting its first quarterly profits.

Via Bloomberg