On Oct. 1, 2013 a Tesla Model S caught fire, setting the conversation about lithium-ion battery-powered cars ablaze. Tesla is a high-end electric car manufacturer that has been receiving great reviews and leading the charge for electric cars in United States.
A man was driving on a highway when his Model S struck a large metal object thought to have fallen off a semi truck. The large metal object punctured a 3-inch hole through the metal plate protecting the base of the vehicle. This caused a fire in the battery module that was contained within the front section of the car. The man pulled over and exited as instructed by the car. “The car gave the driver a warning to stop and pull over,” said Kyle Ohashi, a captain with the Kent Fire Department that responded to the fire. (source)
When the fire department arrived, they punctured more holes in the top of the battery module area, causing the fire to spread to the front trunk section.
A bad visual
The fire engulfed the front of the car and was captured on video. The YouTube video of the fire went viral, causing America to question whether or not electric cars are safe to drive after all. Especially considering that the Chevy Volt has experienced similar backlash. Tesla stock immediately fell.
While this instance was a freak accident, it was still bad publicity for Tesla. Before discussing how the company reacted to the incident and what they did right, it’s important to note that neither the owner of the Model S nor anyone else at the scene, was injured. Whether or not anyone was injured or killed in a situation dramatically alters how a company or organization must proceed during a crisis. In this instance, Tesla did everything right, considering the circumstances.
They responded immediately
Justin Samson, Tesla’s Service Manager, was the first person to contact the Model S owner. Following that, The VP of Sales & Service contacted the owner as well. They explained what happened and how the fire was caused. They apologized to the owner for the unfortunate experience and explained the research they had done during the investigation.
They were transparent
Throughout the process, the Tesla people were very open about the “what,” “how” and “why” of the situation. Not only that, they posted the correspondence they had with the Model S owner on the company’s blog.
They issued a statement on the website
On Oct. 4, 2013, three days after the incident, Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO of Tesla, issued a statement on the blog about the incident. In his statement, he explained what happened and how the situation would’ve been different had the owner been in a conventional gasoline car. He also talked about the probability of something like this happening and how the Tesla performed in a very safe way, exactly as it was designed, in that circumstance.
They turned the situation around
Elon Musk’s statement on the Tesla blog put out the fire, so to speak. This was an unusual incident that occurred and not something that should raise alarm. The car performed exactly how it was supposed to and therefore no one was injured. If anything, this situation made me want to invest in a Tesla more than before. Had the same thing happened to me in my gasoline car, I’m not so sure I’d be here to write his blog post. Musk took charge of the situation and used it to showcase the positive of owning a Tesla.