Wall Street's favored child of the year has finally hit some rough terrain. Third-quarter earnings were meek, causing stocks to tumble 20.9 percent on Tuesday in after hours trading. Now, a third fire in six weeks in a Model S is causing more than a few heads to turn. The latest fire was in Smyrna, Tennessee where federal investigators are getting involved amid fears that there might be some fundamental engineering problem.
Tesla has been the symbol of the potential and progress made in marrying high-end technology with excellent design in automobiles. If these fires continue, though, then the stock price and public good will may never fully recover. Generally speaking, car fires are very, very unlikely, but roughly 33 still happen every day. Given the sheer number of vehicles on the road that are actively used, that still leaves a Tesla Model S several times as likely to catch fire over the past six weeks than any given regular auto.
A recall or retrofit might be necessary based on federal investigation findings – both of which would be catastrophic for the young automaker.