Tesla to probe video of parked Model S exploding in Shanghai

SHANGHAI • US electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla 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 Sunday evening and widely shared on China's Twitter-like Weibo, shows the parked EV emitting smoke and bursting into flames seconds later.

A video purportedly of the aftermath showed a line of three cars completely destroyed. Weibo users said the videos were taken in Shanghai.

"We immediately sent a team on site and we're supporting the local authorities to establish the facts. From what we know now, no one was harmed," Tesla said in a statement yesterday.

There have been at least 14 instances of Tesla cars catching fire since 2013, with the majority occurring after a crash.

The carmaker 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 16 billion km.

It did not specify whether the statistic referred to normal use or involved 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 carmaker 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.

"Tesla self-ignites" was one of the most popular hashtags on Weibo yesterday, racking up over 20 million clicks.

Some users urged the carmaker to quickly find the cause, whereas others speculated over the impact to the value of Tesla cars currently on the road. Still more found humour in the situation.

"One lesson I learnt from the Shanghai self-exploding Tesla: Don't park your car next to a Tesla," said one commentator.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2019, with the headline 'Tesla to probe video of parked Model S exploding in Shanghai'. Print Edition | Subscribe