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Tesla Model S, parked, explodes in Shanghai, prompting probe
Reuters | 2019/4/23

SHANGHAI -- Tesla Inc. sent a team to investigate a video on Chinese social media that showed a parked Tesla Model S car exploding, the latest in a string of fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles.

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 destroyed vehicles.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the origins of the videos, which Weibo users said were taken in Shanghai.

The cause of the explosion could not be immediately ascertained from the videos.

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

It declined comment further when contacted by Reuters.

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

The automaker has said its EVs are about 10 times less likely to experience a fire than gasoline-powered vehicles, based on its fleet of over 500,000 EVs which have driven more than 10 billion miles. It did not specify whether the statistic referred to normal use or involving accidents.

Reputation
The latest incident comes as Tesla tries to push sales in China, where its pricing has been adversely impacted by tariffs imposed during Sino-U.S. trade disputes last year.

The automaker currently imports all the vehicles it sells in China but is building a factory in Shanghai that will initially produce the 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 3s.

Analysts said the latest fire incident would likely increase attention on the safety of EVs but was unlikely to have a significant impact on Tesla's sales or reputation in China while the cause was being investigated.

"Tesla had fire incidents before, but they didn't have a big impact on its reputation in China," said analyst Alan Kang at LMC Automotive.

"Since its consumer base is not particularly conservative, and China is pushing the electric vehicle market, if this incident is just accidental, it will not have a big impact on Tesla," he said.

"Tesla self-ignites" was one of the most popular hashtags on Weibo on Monday, racking up over 20 million clicks. Some users urged the automaker to quickly determine the cause, whereas others speculated over the impact to the value of Tesla vehicles currently on the road. Still more found humor 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.

In a separate, unrelated incident, Tesla's rival in China, Nio, said in a social media post that an ES8 electric crossover caught fire on Monday in a Nio service center in the central city of Xian while under repair.

"Nio has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the fire," Nio said, adding no one was harmed due to the incident.

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