Tesla Workers Hurt at California Plant Adds to Mishaps List

By Alan Ohnsman | November 14, 2013

Tesla Motors Inc. said three workers were injured at its only assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., adding to a string of mishaps including fires in its Model S sedans and results that disappointed some investors.

The employees were injured by hot metal resulting from “a failure in a low pressure aluminum casting press,” at the factory, the Palo Alto, California-based electric-car maker said in a statement yesterday.

They suffered moderate to serious burns, Fremont Fire Department Captain Daniel Cardenas said in an e-mail. There was no fire or explosion at the factory, he said.

Tesla, with the biggest share price gain among automakers this year, has endured setbacks since closing at a record $193.37 on Sept. 30, with three Model S fires and third-quarter results that reported deliveries that missed some estimates. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said this week at the DealBook conference in New York that “there’s definitely not going to be a recall” of the Model S.

U.S. regulators haven’t ordered a recall or announced whether there will be an official review of the vehicle fires.

Inspectors from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health visited the Fremont plant to review the accident, said Peter Melton, a spokesman for the agency, in a phone interview yesterday. The workers had second-degree burns and were sent to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose for treatment, he said.

Model S Production

Tesla said it’s ensuring the workers “receive the best possible care.”

Alexis Georgeson, a spokeswoman for the company, didn’t have further details about the workers’ injuries or how the accident will affect production of the Model S.

The carmaker’s stock rose 0.8 percent to $139.78 at 9:40 a.m. New York time. The shares have advanced more than fourfold this year.

Tesla is investigating a Nov. 6 fire involving a Model S near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the third accident to result in a blaze in about five weeks. The fire occurred after the car hit a metal tow hitch that had fallen onto Interstate 24, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t discussed the Tennessee fire beyond a Nov. 8 statement in which it said it’s in close communication with the company and local authorities, gathering information about the incident to determine if additional action is necessary.

Delivery Target

The factory where the industrial accident occurred is located across San Francisco Bay from Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto and is the sole production site for the Model S.

Any production delay could make it tougher for the carmaker to meet its 21,500-unit delivery target this year. Tesla said last week when it reported quarterly earnings that it was producing 550 cars per week and planned to deliver almost 6,000 in the current quarter.

The company bought the 50-year-old plant in 2010, after it had been a joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and the predecessor of General Motors Co. for a quarter century.

The deal that kept the only large auto plant on the U.S. West Coast in operation was arranged by Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who worked at it. Toyota also bought a stake in Tesla following the factory sale.

The plant opened in the early 1960s in its first incarnation as GM’s Fremont Assembly facility. It closed in 1982 before reopening in 1984, rechristened New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.

(With assistance from Michael B. Marois in Sacramento. Editors: Ben Livesey, Stephen West)

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