US electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc yesterday said that it had sent a team to investigate a video on Chinese social media that showed a parked Tesla Model S exploding, the latest in a string of fire incidents involving Tesla’s vehicles.
The video, time stamped Sunday evening and widely shared on a Chinese microblogging site, shows the parked vehicle emit smoke and burst into flames seconds later. A video purportedly of the aftermath showed a line of three vehicles completely destroyed.
Reporters were not immediately able to verify the origins of the videos, which commenters 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.
The automaker declined comment further when contacted by reporters.
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 approximately 10 times less likely to experience a fire than gas-powered vehicles, based on its fleet of more than 500,000 vehicles, which have collectively driven more than 1.6 billion kilometers.
It did not specify whether the statistic referred to normal use or involving accidents.
The incident comes as Tesla tries to push sales in China, where its prices were affected by tariffs imposed last year.
The automaker imports all the vehicles it sells in China, but is building a factory in Shanghai that would initially make its Model 3 and help reduce the effects of US-China trade disputes.
Last month, Tesla was also on the receiving end of a labeling mix-up at Shanghai customs that resulted in clearance for a batch of Model 3 vehicles being temporarily suspended.
Analysts said the latest fire incident would likely increase attention on the safety of electric vehicles, but was unlikely to have a significant effect 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,” LMC Automotive analyst Alan Kang said.
“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,” Kang said.
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