Revolutionary car maker Tesla Motors (TSLA) is facing hard times due to recent accident reports. The pioneer in producing battery-driven cars, who propagated its Model S as the "safest car," had to swallow its words when the vehicles burst into flames, creating an embarrassing situation for the company.
What Really Happened?
Last year some of Tesla’s Model S vehicles caught fire following accidents which created a widespread public backlash for the CEO Elon Musk and his renowned company. To add fuel to the fire, a reader posted the blazing image of a car on an automobile website and it quickly went viral. The company’s position was, naturally, precarious. Its share began to fall rapidly and rating agencies all over started down rating the company.
On Oct. 1, 2013, the first Tesla fire incident occurred on a highway when debris from the road punctured the Model S battery pack, later causing it to catch fire. Following this, three other cars went up in smoke, in isolated incidents, due to excessive on road damage in running condition. Overall, whopping five fire-related accidents have been reported in past five months. The fifth accident took place in a residential garage in Toronto, on Feb. 1, this year. This time, the car was not even plugged in.
An investigation by the NHTSA yielded no definite trends in the accidents. The agency concluded that collision with debris was “normal and foreseeable”. In such a case, a plan to improve vehicle height and increase the under body strength would do much to curb potential future fire hazards.
As per company’s report, this type of occurrence is not very unnatural as no vehicle is fully fireproof under all circumstances. Rather, number of such accidents of Tesla Motor is far less in comparison to other gasoline car companies. The most important fact, however, is that there has never been a fatal injury or death in a Model S due to these incidents. The automaker also assured that the fire mishap did not originate in the battery, the charging system or any electrical parts, as these components were completely fire-safe; but they failed to explain the actual cause of the firing.
Addition of "Titanium Shield" to Protect the Battery from Catching Fire
To prevent such future debris-related fire incident, the company decided to add a "Titanium Shield" on the battery pack along with a hollow round aluminum bar and a "shallow-angled" aluminum extrusion. The aluminum bar is placed at the front of titanium tray to absorb impacts while the aluminum extrusion helps the cars crossing over the harder non-movable objects.
Musk claimed that the company tested the new protective shield for more than 150 times, hitting concrete blocks and other potential safety hazards. None of these objects caused any damage to the car, prompting the car maker to once again assure the general public of its safety.
Security problem in Model S
However, the automobile company is still not out of the frying pan, so to speak. Following the fire debacle, Tesla Motor has been involved in a security-threat in relation to the same vehicle.
A Tesla owner, who also happens to be a corporate security consultant, reported that he found several design flaws in the car security system. When a new Model S is ordered for purchase, a six digits password is set up by the customer to enter Tesla’s mobile phone app and to gain access to the owner’s online account. The app allows the owner to unlock the car remotely along with other facilities.
If the car’s password is hacked or stolen, it will be a piece of cake to enter the vehicle. Although it is not possible to start the engine, internal components could very well be stolen. He also stated that a patient thief could be able to guess a consumer’s password as the site does not restrict number of incorrect login attempts.
Thoughts for the Future
Despite all mishaps, the company has handled these incidents with an unexpected professionalism. Without playing the blame game, as most companies do these days, Tesla has sought to better its model in accordance with the public’s wishes. The S has been upgraded, and its security too has been improved. Now, the site requires eight characters, consisting of at least one letter and one number. The number of login attempts has been restricted to five.
Yes, it is true, the manufacturer has a long way to go before it becomes one of the leaders of the markets, but we believe it is on the right path. The company has already promised fabulous progress in the year ahead. It’s currently in the process of expanding its business into China as pollution free Model S will be ideal in the country’s polluted environment. The company is also set to launch a second vehicle — the Model X SUV later this year and a cut price car — Model E in 2015. With so much going on, it seems Tesla will surely get through these troubled times and provide its customers with better and safer cars.