Elon Musk reportedly pushed for the investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it will open a formal investigation into the recent fires associated with Tesla Motors' electric Model S. 

According to a new report from The Detroit News, NHTSA will officially investigate the Model S after three fires occurred -- two in the U.S., and one in Mexico -- in under a two-month time period. 

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is deeply committed to safeguarding the driving public. The agency has opened a formal investigation to determine if a safety defect exists in certain Tesla Model S vehicles. The agency’s investigation was prompted by recent incidents in Washington State and Tennessee that resulted in battery fires due to undercarriage strikes with roadway debris,” said NHTSA.

NHTSA originally said it wouldn't open a formal investigation after the first fire occurred in Washington in early October. The second fire incident, which happened in Mexico, was out of NHTSA's jurisdiction. But after the third fire in Tennessee just a little over a week ago, NHTSA reviewed the situation and has decided to open a formal investigation. 

In fact, Tesla CEO Elon Musk pushed for the NHTSA investigation. 

"We have requested that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conduct a full investigation as soon as possible into the fire incidents," said Musk. "While we think it is highly unlikely, if something is discovered that would result in a material improvement in occupant fire safety, we will immediately apply that change to new cars and offer it as a free retrofit to all existing cars. Given that the incidence of fires in the Model S is far lower than combustion cars and that there have been no resulting injuries, this did not at first seem like a good use of NHTSA’s time compared to the hundreds of gasoline fire deaths per year that warrant their attention."

"However, there is a larger issue at stake: if a false perception about the safety of electric cars is allowed to linger, it will delay the advent of sustainable transport and increase the risk of global climate change, with potentially disastrous consequences worldwide. That cannot be allowed to happen."

NHTSA usually requires up to six months before deciding whether to upgrade a preliminary evaluation to an engineering analysis. If that occurs, it can formally ask an automaker to repair the vehicles.
Special focus is being placed on the fact that the Model S' battery is located close to the ground beneath the passenger cabin, making the battery an easy target when striking debris or hitting pavement. 
Tesla said all three fires were caused by crashes, not spontaneous events.

Source: The Detroit News

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