Once upon a time, Tesla's Model S was supposedly the world's safest car. Then a few of them spontaneously combusted either in the comfort of their own garage, or while doing the unthinkable, i.e., driving over pieces of debris on the road, and questions emerged just how much money was used to bribe the NHTSA which had rushed to proclaim the Model S the safest car it has ever tested without apparently doing any actual testing. Today questions of NHTSA bribes re-emerged louder than ever after NHTSA reported earlier it had "closed an investigation into fires involving electric sports car maker Tesla Motors Inc's popular Model S sedans after finding no "defect trend." Obviously a forced recall by Tesla would have promptly shifted the spontaneous combustion from merely its cars to its all important for marketing purposes stock price.
Yet there was one person who did not quite agree with NHTSA's assessment: Tesla boss Elon Musk.
Elon Musk, chief executive and founder of Tesla, announced on Friday that all Model S cars – the company’s top model – manufactured from this month will be fitted with a triple underbody shield.
Because, you see, the "world's safest car" needs what is effectively a bomb blast shield planted in the floor. Just in case.
In a blog post on Medium , Mr Musk said the company decided to fit the shield to reduce the risk further. It follows an “over-the-air” software update to increase the ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds to reduce the odds of a severe underbody impact.
What risk? Isn't the Model S the world's safest car... at least in those times when it is not burning uncontrollably of course.
Mr Musk said Tesla would also retrofit the shields, free of charge, to existing cars upon request or as part of a normally scheduled service.
Although he noted there have been no casualties as a result of the fires, Mr Musk wrote: “We felt it was important to bring this risk down to virtually zero to give Model S owners complete peace of mind.”
During the course of 152 vehicle level tests the company found the shields prevented any damage that could cause a fire or penetrate the plate that already protects the battery pack.
“We have tried every worst-case debris impact we can think of, including hardened steel structures set in the ideal position for a piking event, essentially equivalent to driving a car at highway speed into a steel spear braced on the tarmac,” Mr Musk wrote.
And yet one piece of stray metal allegedly managed to lead to this:
One thing is certain: if after the inclusion of what is effectively a mafia-style bomb blast shield Tesla's continue to have occasional Car-B-Q moments, it will be far more difficult for the damage control brigade to come up with excuses. Which, of course, is all an enterprising arb, who buys the car and "hedges" with a few million in puts really needs for one of the best possible pair trade returns in 2014.