In the aftermath of the viral video showing the spontaneous combustion of a Tesla Model S belonging to the husband of actress Mary McCormack, Tesla has found itself in a place Elon Musk hates: without an appropriate and witty response, one which blames the shorts for Tesla's troubles.
As we showed on Saturday, a Model S caught fire Friday afternoon in West Hollywood, California when its battery pack seemingly ignited. Actress Mary McCormack tweeted cell phone video of the fire, saying, "Tesla this is what happened to my husband and his car today …. no accident, out of the blue, in traffic…."
@Tesla This is what happened to my husband and his car today. No accident,out of the blue, in traffic on Santa Monica Blvd. Thank you to the kind couple who flagged him down and told him to pull over. And thank god my three little girls weren’t in the car with him pic.twitter.com/O4tPs5ftVo— Mary McCormack (@marycmccormack) June 16, 2018
In a subsequent tweet, McCormack clarified that "it wasn’t a Tesla with auto pilot or whatever. It was a normal Tesla."
So what happened? Local authorities - and anyone else who watched the video - said it could have been a faulty battery, but Tesla says it's still too early to know exactly what happened, and on Monday Tesla was investigating how one of its cars appeared to suddenly catch fire.
Overnight, Tesla issued the following statement addressing the "extraordinarily unusual" incident:
"This is an extraordinarily unusual occurrence, and we are investigating the incident to find out what happened.
Our initial investigation shows that the cabin of the vehicle was totally unaffected by the fire due to our battery architecture, which is designed to protect the cabin in the very rare event that a battery fire occurs.
While our customer had time to safely exit the car, we are working to understand the cause of the fire. We’re glad our customer is safe."
Others quickly jumped to Tesla's defense.
"Well, of course the video footage itself looks alarmist," Alistair Weaver, editor-in-chief at Edmunds, told CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas. "There's obviously been some issues with lithium ion batteries in the past, particularly around cell phones, but electric car batteries are very different. It's a lot of sophisticated technology."
Tesla has maintained that it takes extraordinary measures to protect passengers from fires, which it says are at least 10 times less likely in a Tesla than in a gas-powered car.
"We've driven over 50,000 miles in these vehicles and have never replicated this or anything like it, nor have we seen any evidence elsewhere of other cars spontaneously catching fire, so I think it needs more investigation," said Weaver.
Actually, there are plenty of incidents of Tesla spontaneously combusting (recent incidents in France and Norway spring to mind), but what is more worrisome is that virtually every time a Tesla suffers a crash, its batteries explode, in many cases with tragic consequences.
However, what is perhaps most troubling is that as Tesla was scrambling to extinguish the damage from the viral "spontaneous combustion" video - so to speak - Tesla CEO Musk was engaged in another bitter back and forth on Twitter with Tesla skeptics and shorts.
This took place shortly after Musk showed off the new Model 3 production facility, which in retrospect turned out to be a tent whose modular components were not even secured and prompted some to wonder if Musk is now resorting to stage props to give the impression that all is well.
4) Not bolted to the floor pic.twitter.com/OOHl6jXpDM— Dopey (@Dope007) June 16, 2018
Judging by Tesla's rising stock price, whatever Musk said to ease concerns about the company is working, and this morning the short squeeze continued, although look forward to finding out shortly if Musk was again the catalyst for today's buying spree with another pre-market purchase of illiquid TSLA stock meant to spark the latest short squeeze.