SMYRA, TN -- A Tennessee physician whose Tesla became the third to catch on fire after an accident says he stands by the car even as federal investigators say they are working with the electric car maker over the incidents.
Tesla posted an account of the accident on its website from the driver, which the automaker identifies as Juris Shibayama, whose car caught on fire near Smyrna, Tenn.
He writes out how was unable to swerve to avoid a trailer hitch in the highway, how it went underneath his Model S sedan and a fire resulted. And how he stands behind the Tesla.
"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," he writes in the post on Tesla's website.
But it's yet to be seen what federal investigators think. They are now taking a look at Tesla after this third incident. In the first, another driver struck an object that pieced the car's armored battery pack and started a fire. In the second case, a driver crashed his car and fled the scene. And now the Tennessee case.
NHTSA has issued its usual statement of a preliminary investigation. But it did issue a tougher statement Friday indicating that's its not just gathering details of the accident from authorities, but is in touch with the automaker directly.
"NHTSA is in close communication with Tesla and local authorities gathering information about the incident to determine if additional action is necessary," the statement said.
In the incident, Shibayama says he was driving home from work when he struck the hitch at about 70 miles per hour. He felt the thud, which was followed less than a minute later by a warning message: "Car needs service. Car may not restart."
Just hoping to reach home, he says he continued to drive but didn't get a lot farther. In another minute, up popped a message saying "Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down." He got over and soon smoke was pouring out from underneath, followed by the fire that destroyed the front half of the car.
Still, Shibayama says he is grateful he was driving a Tesla. "Had I not been in a Tesla, that object could have punched through the floor and caused me serious harm," he writes.
Tesla's stock took a drubbing last week following the report of the third fire and an earnings report that left some, but not all, disappointed. It lost nearly 22% over its value over three days, closing at $137.95 on Friday.