The media seems to love to cover Tesla (TSLA -1.37%) accidents. As Tesla has pointed out, several high-speed accidents that resulted in electric-car battery fires sparked more national media coverage in 2013 than the 200,000 gasoline car fires in North America during the same period. Until now, Tesla has also been able to point to the fact that there have been no deaths or serious injuries of any kind in the Model S. But the automaker (sort of) lost its bragging rights to this important streak due to a July 4 accident.
A senseless tragedy
The incident began when Joshua Slot stole a Model S from a Tesla service center in Los Angeles, according to news reports. Police began a high-speed pursuit. Though officers eventually gave up on the chase, Slot reportedly continued traveling at speeds around 100 mph, eventually colliding with three other vehicles and two street poles.
The Model S ended up split in two, with its battery ablaze. Because he wasn't using a seat belt, the driver was ejected. In critical condition, he was rushed to the emergency room. Slot died on Monday, July 7. Five other people were injured during the incident.
There is clearly nothing Tesla could have done to prevent this accident from happening.
While the statistic that the odds of a fire in a Model S are five times lower than those for the average gasoline car likely still holds true, Tesla can no longer boast a fatality-free track record for the car. But as The Verge pointed out, "few people will be pointing fingers at the electric car maker for this senseless tragedy."
The safest car ever built
Despite the severity of this incident, Tesla investors should continue to ignore reports of Model S accidents and battery fires. With about 50,000 of the vehicles on the road now, accidents are inevitable. Will we see headlines for Model S flat tires next?
Safety is a strong point for Tesla. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which tests every vehicle sold in the U.S., concluded that that the Model S is the safest car ever. Based on the rating provided to manufacturers, the Model S' score even exceeded the safety scores of all SUVs and minivans.
If anything, Tesla's safety record (even after this recent tragedy) is a reason to hold on to the stock, not a reason to sell.