Man in Tesla Model S fire: 'I'd buy another one'

In a blog post on the company's site, a Tennessee man whose Tesla Model S caught fire explains that he ran over a trailer hitch and never felt in danger at any time.

How the Tesla Motors Club site reacted to first images of the fire. tommolog/TeslaMotorsClub Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Car brands enjoy testimonials from happy drivers.

But there's something a little more powerful, when the testimonial is from a driver whose car just caught fire.

In a blog post on Tesla Web site, Juris Shibayama, an MD from Tennessee, explains what happened when his Model S caught fire last Wednesday .

He ends his explanation with a line that not everyone would expect: "I would buy another one in a heartbeat."

Shibayama said that he struck a three-pronged trailer hitch in the middle lane of the interstate. He continued:

About 30-45 seconds later, there was a warning on the dashboard display saying, 'Car needs service. Car may not restart.' I continued to drive, hoping to get home. About one minute later, the message on the dashboard display read, 'Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down.'

He said he had time to remove his possessions, even though, he said: "About 5-10 seconds after getting out of the car, smoke started to come from the front underbody of the car."

Next, he said he got 100 yards away and, some two minutes later, the car caught fire.

It seems as if the protective shield around the car's battery had been punctured.

Shibayama, though, believes he was fortunate: "Had I not been in a Tesla, that object could have punched through the floor and caused me serious harm."

A cynical few might wonder whether his statement was assisted by the drivers of Tesla's PR machine. However, Shibayama's words are very clear: "This experience does not in any way make me think that the Tesla Model S is an unsafe car."

The fact that this is the third Tesla Model S fire in the last two months will lead some to wonder that there might be safety or design issues with the car. Not according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which gave it a 5-star safety rating. (The NHTSA is said to have contacted authorities in Tennessee to see if further investigation is warranted.)

Perhaps the three fires represent a coincidence, or the fact that a few more Teslas are now on the road. But as an endorsement, Shibayama's openness to buying another one is as good an advertisement as Tesla could hope for in the circumstances.

I have contacted Tesla to ask how the post came about and will update, should I hear.

Ultimately, we all buy cars on trust. It seems that at least Juris Shibayama, MD, has not lost any faith after his dangerous experience.

 

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