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Tesla Gains as Fire Concerns Die Down

NEW YORK (TheStreet) Tesla Motors (TSLA - Get Report) shares were slightly higher in Monday trading, gaining 1% to $139.34 following news over the weekend that the owner of the latest Model S to suddenly erupt in flames would "buy another one in a heartbeat."

Dr. Juris Shibayama responded to the incident with a blog post on Tesla's website declaring that given the severity of the accident, the Model S saved his life.  Here's Shibayama's post in its entirety:

I was driving home from work on the interstate in the right lane at approximately 70 miles per hour, following a truck. In the middle of the lane, there was a rusty three-pronged trailer hitch that was sticking up with the ball up in the air. The truck in front of me cleared the object. I did not have enough time to swerve to avoid the hitch, and it went below my car. I felt a firm "thud" as the hitch struck the bottom of the car, and it felt as though it even lifted the car up in the air. My assistant later found a gouge in the tarmac where the item scraped into the road. Somewhat shaken, I continued to drive.

About 30-45 seconds later, there was a warning on the dashboard display saying, "Car needs service. Car may not restart." I continued to drive, hoping to get home. About one minute later, the message on the dashboard display read, "Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down." I was able to fully control the car the entire time and safely pulled off the left shoulder on the side of the road. I got out of the car, and started to get all my belongings out. About 5-10 seconds after getting out of the car, smoke started to come from the front underbody of the car. I walked away from the vehicle to a distance of about 100 yards. More smoke started to come out of the bottom of the car, and about two minutes after I walked away, the front of the car caught on fire.

I am thankful to God that I was totally uninjured in any way from this impact. Had I not been in a Tesla, that object could have punched through the floor and caused me serious harm. From the time of impact of the object until the time the car caught fire was about five minutes. During this time, the car warned me that it was damaged and instructed me to pull over. I never felt as though I was in any imminent danger. While driving after I hit the object until I pulled over, the car performed perfectly, and it was a totally controlled situation. There was never a point at which I was anywhere even close to any flames.

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The firemen arrived promptly and applied water to the flames. They were about to pry open the doors, so I pressed my key button and the handles presented and everything worked even though the front of the car was on fire. No flames ever reached the cabin, and nothing inside was damaged. I was even able to get my papers and pens out of the glove compartment.

This experience does not in any way make me think that the Tesla Model S is an unsafe car. I would buy another one in a heartbeat.

Juris Shibayama, MD

Last week, shares of Tesla plunged following third-quarter earnings as concerns about production delays and supply constraints offset an otherwise good quarter. Then, news of the third Model S fire in six weeks hit placed further pressure on the automaker's shares. Tesla has dropped 27% from a high on Sept. 30 of $194.50.

Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean said the company was in contact with the driver following the accident. "We have been in contact with the driver, who was not injured and believes the car saved his life," Jarvis-Shean said in an email last week to TheStreet.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are approximately 152,000 vehicle fires per year. The Model S was given the highest safety award by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, getting a 5-star rating. Following the fire that occurred in Seattle, the NHTSA cleared Tesla of any wrong doing, and said it found no evidence of defect or issues with the Model S.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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