Tesla is a classic example. This company has turned the automotive industry on its head. And when the status quo is upset, the people who start losing money start screaming.
There are over 200,000 gasoline cars that caught fire in North America alone last year. I bet you didn’t hear about a single one. A Tesla catches fire after an extraordinary accident [from which the driver walked away] and everyone hears about it, certainly not the “walked away” apart.
This happened after the vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph, shearing off 15 feet of concrete curbwall and tearing off the left front wheel, then smashing through an eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall on the other side of the road and tearing off the right front wheel, before crashing into a tree. The driver stepped out and walked away with no permanent injuries and a fire, again limited to the front section of the vehicle, started several minutes later.
Source at this link.
The odds of fire in a Model S, at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car and, when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small.
But Tesla wants the odds to be virtually zero and has added a titanium underbody shield and aluminum deflector plates to our new Model S in addition to the existing quarter inch of ballistic grade aluminum armor plate that already protects the battery pack and the steel and ceramic firewall between the battery pack and the passenger compartment. On their website, Tesla includes amazing video footage from worst case scenario tests. Existing owners can have the upgrade installed at no charge to them.
Compare that to the American auto industry of my youth: the Ford Pinto Fuel Tank Scandal of the late 1970s…
Critics alleged that the vehicle’s lack of reinforcing structure between the rear panel and the tank meant the tank would be pushed forward and punctured by the protruding bolts of the differential — making the car less safe than its contemporaries.
According to a 1977 Mother Jones article by Mark Dowie, Ford allegedly was aware of the design flaw, refused to pay for a redesign, and decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits. The magazine obtained a cost-benefit analysis that it said Ford had used to compare the cost of repairs (Ford estimated the cost to be $11 per car per year) against the cost of settlements for deaths, injuries, and vehicle burnouts . The document became known as the Ford Pinto Memo.
An example of a Pinto rear-end accident that led to a lawsuit was the 1972 accident resulted in the court case Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., in which the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District upheld compensatory damages of $2.5 million and punitive damages of $3.5 million against Ford, partially because Ford had been aware of the design defects before production but had decided against changing the design.
The Big Rip Off
What’s the worst part of owning new car? For most, it’s the buying experience. We detest being ripped off by the dealership, the middle men. Tesla, on the other hand, has no dealerships. You buy direct from the company online. This, of course, has upset car dealerships who have lobbied effectively in New Jersey and North Carolina to prevent the Tesla from being sold in those states. They’re all for free markets until you’re talking about their marketshare!
I have to hand it to Tesla: they’re treating their customers extremely well.