Tesla probes video of Model S exploding in Shanghai

SHANGHAI: US electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla Inc said it has sent a team to investigate a video on Chinese social media which showed a parked Tesla Model S car exploding, the latest in a string of fire incidents involving Tesla’s cars.
The video, time stamped on Sunday evening and widely shared on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, shows the parked EV emit smoke and burst into flames seconds later. A video purportedly of the aftermath showed a line of three cars completely destroyed.
The cause of the explosion could not be immediately ascertained from the videos.
“We immediately sent a team onsite and we’re supporting local authorities to establish the facts. From what we know now, no one was harmed,” Tesla said in a statement on Monday. There have been at least 14 instances of Tesla cars catching fire since 2013, with the majority occurring after a crash.
The automaker has said its EVs are about 10 times less likely to experience a fire than petrol-powered cars, based on its fleet of over 500,000 vehicles which have driven more than 10 billion miles. It did not specify whether the statistic referred to normal use or involving accidents.
The latest incident comes as Tesla tries to push sales in China, where its prices were impacted by tit-for-tat tariffs imposed during Sino-US trade tensions last year.
The automaker currently imports all the cars it sells in China, but is building a factory in Shanghai that will initially make its Model 3 and help reduce the impact of a trade war.
In March, Tesla was also on the receiving end of a labelling mix-up at Shanghai customs that led to a temporary suspension of clearance for a batch of Model 3 cars.
Analysts said the latest fire incident would likely increase attention on the safety of EVs but was unlikely to have a significant impact on Tesla’s sales or reputation in China while the cause was being investigated.
“Tesla had fire incidents before, but they didn’t have a big impact on its reputation in China,” said analyst Alan Kang at LMC Automotive.
“Since its consumer base is not particularly conservative, and China is pushing the electric vehicle market, if this incident is just accidental, it will not have a big impact on Tesla,” he said.
“Tesla self-ignites” was one of the most popular hashtags on Weibo on Monday, racking up over 20 million clicks. — Reuters