Tesla probing car fire in France

A Model X at a new Tesla flagship facility in San Francisco, California. On Monday, one of the firm's Model S sedans caught fire while undergoing a test drive in the south-western town of Bayonne in France.
A Model X at a new Tesla flagship facility in San Francisco, California. On Monday, one of the firm's Model S sedans caught fire while undergoing a test drive in the south-western town of Bayonne in France.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Pioneering US electric car firm Tesla says it is probing an incident in which one of its Model S sedans caught fire while undergoing a test drive in France.

All three people in the car, a couple and a female Tesla demonstrator, got safely out of the vehicle and were not hurt, Tesla said.

The driver of the car had signed up for a test drive on Facebook on Monday in the south-western town of Bayonne, the local daily Sud- Ouest said. He slightly accelerated on one of the town's main streets when "a loud sound came from the car", the newspaper report said.

"In less than a minute, the car was in flames, and in five minutes, it was totally destroyed," he was quoted as saying.

United States federal regulators also recorded two fires involving the Model S, one each in the states of Washington and Tennessee in 2013. In both cases, the cars involved hit debris on the road that pierced the chassis and caused a battery fire. A third case was also reported in Merida, Mexico.

In March 2014, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed an investigation into the incidents after Tesla vowed to reinforce the casing around the vehicle's lithium-ion batteries.

More recently, Tesla has made headlines over its autopilot self-driving feature. In the US state of Florida on May 7, the driver of a Tesla was killed in a collision with a truck. A preliminary probe by the US National Transportation Safety Board found that the vehicle had been travelling in semi-autonomous mode and was speeding at the time of the crash.

And Tesla removed a Chinese term for "self-driving" from its China website after a driver in Beijing involved in a minor collision while in autopilot mode earlier this month complained that the carmaker overplayed the function's capability and misled buyers.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Tesla probing car fire in France'. Print Edition | Subscribe