The fiery aftermath of a crash on a Chinese highway has Tesla on the defensive, rebuffing claims the rear “Falcon Wing” doors of the Model X pose a danger to passengers trying to escape.
Unlike past high-profile crashes, this story doesn’t concern the potential risks of the vehicle’s Autopilot system, as it seems the cause of the accident can be entirely attributed to driver error. The chauffeur-driven Model X reportedly hit cement barriers inÂ Guangzhou, China, while travelling at 47 miles per hour, spinning the vehicle around and sparking a head-on impact from a Ford Focus.
The vehicle’s underfloor battery pack, damaged and exposed to oxygen, erupted in flames. However, it’s what happened next that prompted a $1 million lawsuit against Tesla.
According to the owner’s statement, discovered and posted by Electrek, Lee Tada and her boyfriend were sitting in the second row, and found the electrically actuated doors â€” apparently drained of even residual power â€” impossible to open after the impact. Both rear occupants escaped by scrambling over the front seats.
Tada suffered facial injuries in the crash, and claims the driver was left with internal injuries and a long-term hospital stay. Tesla’s Chinese sales division claims to be investigating the crash with the help of local authorities.
The lawsuit stems from the inability of the rear-seat passengers to escape the burning vehicle through the rear doors. Shortly after the Model X entered the market, electrical glitches led some owners to condemn the automaker for its eye-catching but wonky rear doors. Tesla rolled out a software update to smooth out the issue.
While there’s a manual way to open the rear doorsÂ â€” it involves removing the speaker cover in the lower door panel and moving a latchÂ â€” it’s not likely that every buyer reads through that section of the owner’s manual. Certainly, passengers wouldn’t be aware of its existence.
Tesla ChinaÂ released a garbled statement relating to the lawsuit:
First of all, the lives of the owner and passengers were not threaten. We are working closely with the department concerned. TheÂ distribution of the debris at the site and the damage all indicate that this was a high-speed crash â€“ in this case, not just electric cars, but any vehicle can catchÂ on fire. In fact, another car involved in the accident (a fuel-powered vehicle) also caught on fire. Fuel tank fire incidents happen much more often than the electric car fires.
In addition, Tesla has consistently insisted on the disclosure and transparency of information, including other information about the incident, such as the owner is asking us for 8 million yuan, and we will not accept.
Robin Ren, Vice-President ofÂ Asia-Pacific at Tesla, told ElectrekÂ the owner decided to “blackmail” the company after the insurance company failed to cover the loss, attributing the crash to driver inexperience.[Image: Tesla Motors]