- A new Tesla Model S Plaid spontaneously combusted and burnt to the ground, a lawyer for the owner said.
- The $130,000-plus sedan had only been on the road for a few days, the lawyer said.
- Teslas have suddenly caught fire in the past.
After months of anticipation, Tesla in June started delivering its fastest and most expensive car yet — the $130,000 Model S Plaid.
On Tuesday, just weeks after Tesla launched the sedan during an event at its Fremont, California factory, one of the few on the road was destroyed after it suddenly burst into flames in a suburb of Philadelphia, a lawyer for its owner told Insider.
Mark Geragos, managing partner of the law firm Geragos & Geragos, said his client was driving a brand new Model S Plaid he had taken delivery of on Saturday when he noticed smoke, then fire, coming from the car. The firm declined to identify the driver.
Geragos said his client struggled to unlock the doors but eventually extricated himself from the sedan. The Model S Plaid continued rolling down the street for around 25 to 30 yards, before becoming totally engulfed in flames, Geragos said.
“He was able to get out of the door somehow. And the car, shortly after he got out, turned into a fireball,” Geragos said. He said his client had not done anything to damage the car and that the incident seemed “completely spontaneous.”
The attorney wouldn’t say whether his client is planning legal action against Tesla. He called on the company to take the Plaid Model S off the road until the incident is investigated.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, the Gladwyne Volunteer Fire Company detailed its response to the fire, which it said occurred on Tuesday around 9 p.m. First responders kept water flowing to the battery pack for close to 90 minutes to cool it down, the statement said.
Two crews of firefighters spent three hours at the scene, Charles McGarvey, the Lower Merion Township Fire Department’s chief fire officer, told CNBC. The car’s owner plans to have it independently investigated to find out what caused the blaze, McGarvey said. He also told CNBC that his teams have been in contact with Tesla.
The Gladwyne Volunteer Fire Company did not return Insider’s request for comment, and the Lower Merion Township fire chief was not available for comment. Tesla did not return Insider’s request for comment.
Tesla’s vehicles have been known to catch fire during collisions or after an impact to the underside of the car, where the battery pack — which can overheat when its cooling system is damaged — is located. However, gas-powered cars also frequently catch fire after crashes, and some studies show that electric vehicles are no more likely to combust than internal-combustion ones.
What’s more unusual is that Teslas have occasionally caught fire seemingly completely spontaneously — just sitting in a parking garage or on the side of the road. It’s especially noteworthy that, in this case, it was a flagship car that had only been on the road for days, while some earlier incidents involved older models.
Still, it’s possible that the owner unknowingly damaged the underside of the car in some way, and that Tuesday’s fire is not indicative of any larger problem.
In November, a Model S in Texas suddenly started shooting out flames “like a flamethrower,” its owner told The Washington Post. And in 2019, a Model S seemed to spontaneously combust in a Shanghai parking garage. Incidents like these prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open an investigation in 2019 into Tesla fires.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Insider it is in touch with relevant agencies and with Tesla to collect information on Tuesday’s incident. The agency said it will take action “if data or investigations show a defect or an inherent risk to safety exists.”