Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the electric-car maker led by Elon Musk, plunged after a Model S sedan fire yesterday in Tennessee, the third in five weeks involving the car. The accident happened after the driver hit a metal object, local authorities said.
The shares slid 8.5 percent to $138.37 at 11:24 a.m. New York time after declining as much as 8.7 percent to $138, the lowest intraday price since Aug. 15. It was the second-consecutive slide for the company. Tesla dropped 15 percent yesterday after reporting third-quarter earnings on Nov 5.
“We have been in contact with the driver, who was not injured and believes the car saved his life,” Liz Jarvis-Shean, a spokeswoman for the Palo Alto, California-based company, said in an e-mail. “Our team is on its way to Tennessee to learn more about what happened in the accident. We will provide more information when we’re able to do so.”
The accident occurred near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, at about 1:35 p.m. local time yesterday on Interstate 24, Dalya Qualls, a Tennessee Highway Patrol spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The driver, identified as Juris Shibayama, struck a tow hitch that was in the middle of a lane, which damaged the car’s undercarriage and caused the fire, Qualls said. Shibayama was able to pull the car over to the side and was uninjured, Qualls said.
The Tennessee fire was first reported on the ValueWalk website, which cited photos of the car fire posted on the Tesla Motors Club forum website.
Even after the past two days of declines, Tesla shares have surged more than fourfold this year after the electric-car maker reported its first quarterly profits. With the increase, investors gave the company a valuation of more than 200 times estimated earnings.
Two earlier Model S fires, in Washington state Oct. 1 and in Mexico in mid-October, occurred the same month Tesla shares dropped 17 percent, its first monthly decline since February the biggest since December 2010.
Tesla dropped 10 percent over two days following the Washington crash report. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Oct. 24 it found no evidence the Oct. 1 Model S fire resulted from defects or violations of U.S. safety standards. The agency said it was aware of the Mexico incident and will continue to monitor the performance of Tesla vehicles.
Nathan Naylor, a spokesman for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, had no immediate comment on the latest accident.
Yesterday’s 15 percent share decline was the most in more than 21 months. On Nov. 5, Tesla reported third-quarter Model S sales that missed some estimates and projected little-changed fourth-quarter earnings.
Model S deliveries totaled about 5,500 for the quarter, the Palo Alto, California-based company said in a statement. Some analysts had estimated more than 5,800.
Excluding some items, Tesla earned 12 cents a share in the third quarter. The company said it expected an adjusted fourth-quarter profit “about consistent” with the third quarter.
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