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Third Tesla Model S Catches Fire, Brings Call For Safety Inquiry

27, 2010. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration absolutely has to investigate Wednesdays Tennessee incident, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, based in Washington, said in a telephone interview. A Model S driver struck a tow hitch in the middle of a lane on Interstate 24 near Murfreesboro, Tenn., damaging the cars undercarriage and causing the fire, Dalya Qualls, a Tennessee Highway Patrol spokeswoman, said in an email. The driver was able to pull the car over and was uninjured, Qualls said. NHTSA declined to investigate the Model S fire in Washington state in October, the first such reported blaze, in which metal debris was involved. It appears theres inadequate shielding on the bottom of these vehicles, Ditlow said. Road debris is a known hazard to the undercarriage of vehicles. 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, Karen Aldana, a spokeswoman for NHTSA, said in an e-mail. Liz Jarvis-Shean, a Tesla spokeswoman, didnt immediately respond to an email question about the need to strengthen the aluminum casing that houses the 1,000-pound (454-kilogram) lithium-ion battery that powers the Model S. We have been in contact with the driver, who was not injured and believes the car saved his life, Jarvis-Shean said in an earlier email. Our team is on its way to Tennessee to learn more about what happened in the accident. We will provide more information when were able to do so. Tesla, the best-performing automotive stock this year, has been under scrutiny as Musk works to create the worlds biggest and most profitable seller of electric cars. Even with this weeks declines, Tesla shares have surged more than fourfold this year after reporting its first quarterly profits. The Washington state Model S fire took place Oct. 1, with another in Mexico in mid-October. NHTSA said Oct. 24 it found no evidence the first Model S fire resulted from defects or violations of U.S. safety standards. NHTSA doesnt investigate vehicle accidents that occur outside the U.S., the agency has said. A possible fix for the Model S, priced from $70,000 to more than $100,000, is not rocket science, Ditlow said. Probably the simplest task Tesla has is putting a strong steel shield on the bottom of the car. A U.S.
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