Tesla and General Motors Both Facing Fire-Related Recalls

Andrew Klips |

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted recalls for vehicles made by General Motors (GM) and Tesla Motors (TSLA) on Tuesday, citing problems that could cause the vehicles to catch fire.  Tesla has the easier path to compliance, with owners not required to bring their vehicle to the shop to get fixed.

For GM, the NHTSA said that the company is recalling approximately 370,000 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size trucks equipped with 4.3-liter or 5.3-liter engines.  The problem is with computer software that can allow the exhaust to overheat when the trucks are idling in cold temperatures.  The overheating can melt nearby plastic parts and result in an engine fire.  Eight fires have been reported to date, fortunately with no injuries reported.

The remedy is for owners to bring their trucks in to dealerships where the engine control module will be reprogrammed for free.

Tesla cars will never have the problem that GM is having as they don’t have an exhaust; they’re electric.  However, Tesla is recalling about 29,200 of its Model S sedans because the charging adapter, cord or wall outlet could overheat during charging, increasing the risk of a fire or burn injury.  That’s nearly all of the Model S sedans that were produced in 2013.

According to the NHTSA website:

Tesla will notify owners and provide an "over-the-air" software update. Some owners have already received this update. This update allows the Model S on board charging system to detect any unexpected fluctuations in the input power or higher resistance connections to the vehicle. If detected, the onboard charging system will automatically reduce the charging current by 25%. Tesla owners can verify that they have received the updated software (version 5.8.4 or later) by viewing the vehicle's center information screen. Additionally, Tesla will mail owners a replacement NEMA 14-50 adapter that is equipped with an internal thermal fuse.

In a bit of irony, maybe it’s a good thing that Tesla has the recall out for more than 29,000 of its electric cars because that figure is more than they expected to sell.  The company said that the fourth quarter of 2013 was its best quarter ever for the company by a long shot, exceeding corporate sales projections by approximately 20 percent.   The strong quarter even came in the face of negative press last year after a video surfaced showing a Model S catching fire (unrelated to the charging issue) after striking debris in the road.   Two other similar fires were also reported, prompting a NHTSA investigation.

Tesla reported Tuesday afternoon that it sold and delivered almost 6,900 vehicles during the fourth quarter.  This was well above the “slightly under 6,000” vehicles that the company previously forecast.  Tesla attributed the improved sales to its “superlative safety record” of the Model S and “great performance” in extremely cold conditions.  Again, a bit of irony given the news today.

The company said that Tesla cars have been sold in 31 countries to date and have cumulatively logged more than 200 million miles of driving.

The recall news didn’t affect shares of GM as it moved ahead 1.1 percent in Tuesday trading to close at $40.02 per share.  Tesla investors seemed to completely ignore the recall news and focus on the growing sales figures for the sleek, expensive cars.  Shares popped 15.7 percent to close the day at $161.27.

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Symbol Name Price Change % Volume
GM General Motors Company 32.04 0.29 0.91 11,975,706
PWGQY Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd. ADR Level 1 n/a n/a n/a 0
TSLA Tesla Motors Inc. 200.09 0.99 0.50 2,943,402


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