Tesla CEO Defends Model S After Fire; Owner Says "I Am Still a Fan"

AP Photo/Paul SakumaTesla CEO Elon Musk and a Model S electric car.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk defended the Model S electric car on Friday after a fire in one of the cars sent shares tumbling.

This week video emerged of a Tesla Model S engulfed in flames following an accident in Washington state. The resulting bad press proved disastrous for the share price, with the company losing more than $2 billion in market value. On Friday, the company's CEO sought to get out ahead of the story in an extensive blog post explaining why the car had caught fire -- and why consumers and investors shouldn't be concerned.

The car, wrote Musk, ran over a curved object that had fallen off a semi-truck, puncturing the underside of the vehicle and starting a fire in the battery pack. Musk emphasized, though, that the design of the Model S contained the fire to the front section of the car and allowed the driver to pull over and exit the vehicle unharmed. It wasn't until the fire department punctured holes in the battery in an attempt to extinguish the fire that the car was engulfed in flames.

"It is important to note that the fire in the battery was contained to a small section near the front by the internal firewalls built into the pack structure," wrote Musk. "Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse."

Musk went on to post an exchange between the car's owner, Robert Carlson, and a Tesla executive.
"I agree that the car performed very well under such an extreme test," wrote Carlson, who added, "I am still a big fan of your car and look forward to getting back into one."

Carlson also noted that he was a Tesla investor, and we're guessing he's not thrilled that his own car accident is hurting his stock portfolio.

Based on Musk's description, it does sound like this was a freak accident. But it's unclear whether skittish investors will see it that way. The pricey electric car has faced an uphill battle against public skepticism, and Musk himself has publicly engaged critics who questioned the car's viability and design. And despite receiving a five-star safety rating, any hint that the car is a safety risk is going to hurt sales.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.