Tesla: Third Model S fire in past two months

Company says the blaze resulted from an accident involving a trailer. Investigators are now traveling to the site to uncover further details.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
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Burning Tesla Model S
After an October accident, a burning Tesla Model S was captured on video by a passerby. Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET
Tesla's Model S, which the company's Web site touts as "the safest car in America," has sustained its third fire in six weeks.

Pictures of the smoking electric vehicle appeared on the Tesla Motors Club Web site. The accident took place in Smyrna, Tenn.

The fire resulted from an accident when the car hit what was believed to be a trailer hitch, according to company spokesman Patrick Jones.

"After the impact, the car safety systems warned the driver about the incident and instructed him to pull over to the side of the road which he safely did," said Jones. who said a team of investigators is traveling to the site of the accident. He added that the driver was not injured.

Previous fires involving the vehicle occurred near Seattle and Merida, Mexico, after accidents.

The company has steadfastly maintained that its vehicles still remain safer than gas-powered cars. Indeed, earlier this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Tesla Model S a 5 star safety rating.

"For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid," Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on a company blog in early October.

Whether the latest news will have any lasting effect on public perceptions is doubtful. But it offered more fodder for bears who have been dumping Tesla shares since the company reported third-quarter earnings earlier this week. Tesla's stock has been on a tear most of the year but in the last month has lost more than 20 percent of its value.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. PT with confirmation and more information from Tesla.