PALO ALTO (CBS/AP) — The U.S. government’s auto safety watchdog is investigating whether Tesla’s Model S electric car is vulnerable to fires because roadway debris can pierce the car’s underbody and battery.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which announced the probe early Tuesday, is looking into two incidents in which Model S drivers struck metal objects on highways. The objects penetrated the bottom of the car, punctured the battery and caused fires.
Both drivers were warned of a problem by the car and escaped safely.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a blog post that he requested the NHTSA investigation. He says accident data show that the Model S is far safer than gasoline-powered cars, but the probe is needed to dispel questions the public may have about the safety of electric vehicles as a result of the fires.
But NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told reporters in Washington Tuesday that he isn’t aware of any request from Tesla. However, the agency said Tesla is cooperating in the investigation.
News of the probe didn’t hurt Tesla’s stock price. It gained $4.51, or 3.7 percent, to close at $126.09, and at one point rose to $129.