Tesla Shares Retreat on Model S Fire Inquiry by NHTSA

By Angela Greiling Keane | October 22, 2013

Tesla Motors Inc. fell as much as 3.8 percent after the top U.S. auto regulator said the agency is studying an Oct. 1 fire involving one of the plug-in electric carmaker’s Model S sedans.

“We have our experts that are in contact with Tesla right now,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland told reporters today in Washington.

TeslaTesla shares were down $4.06 to $168.54 at 11:25 a.m. in New York, after sinking as low as $166.11.

The agency didn’t initially investigate the fire because most of its employees were on furlough during the partial U.S. government shutdown. It previously investigated fires in two other battery-powered vehicles, General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Automotive Inc.’s Karma.

NHTSA is “gathering data” on the Tesla accident and hasn’t decided whether to open a formal investigation, Strickland said.

Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, a Tesla spokeswoman, wasn’t immediately available to comment.

The battery in the Model S caught fire Oct. 1 after the vehicle collided with a large metallic object on a road in Kent, Washington.

Regulators’ probe of a fire in a Volt, which broke out weeks after the completion of government crash tests, led to congressional hearings.

(With assistance from John Hughes in Washington. Editors: Bernard Kohn, Bill Koenig)

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