Last week bankrupt Fisker Automotive was sold to a Chinese company, and Tesla Motors experienced another fire in one of its Model S electric cars.
The Obama administration Green-stimulus losing streak continues. The two luxury electric automaking companies, where the Department of Energy deemed taxpayer “investments” should be placed at risk, don’t inspire confidence.
As NLPC has documented extensively, Fisker burned through more than $1.4 billion, which included $193 million loaned from U.S. taxpayers and millions more from state and local governments. After selling the scraps of its loan to a Chinese businessman, Richard Li, DOE said the government would realize a $139 million loss. Now another Chinese-based company, Wanxiang Group, won the rights to Fisker’s assets with a $149.2 offer at the bankruptcy auction. U.S. taxpayers are none the better for it.
Wanxiang – China’s largest auto parts manufacturer – was also the company that bought electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems, which also went bankrupt after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the Obama green stimulus. American taxpayers were jilted in that deal, too, as Wanxiang bought the assets – including some valuable technology – on the cheap. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States allowed the transaction to go through despite vehement objections from former members of Congress and the military over giving away trade secrets and patents to a Communist foreign competitor.
Then there’s Tesla. After a series of fires over the fall that were reportedly the result of either running over road debris or outright crashes, an Irvine, Calif. garage fire was kept quiet for over a month. The incident was ultimately revealed on November 15, when the Orange County Fire Authority attributed the incident to the Model S’s re-powering set-up.
“The fire occurred as a result of an electrical failure in the charging system for an electric vehicle,” the report said, while stating the cause of the fire is unclear. “The most probable cause of this fire is a high resistance connection at the wall socket or the Universal Mobile Connector from the Tesla charging system….”
As with the previous fire events, Tesla: deflected blame or responsibility; emphasized that no one was injured; noted the company’s exemplary safety ratings and records; and explained how far more blazes occur in gas-powered vehicles than in Teslas. Affected Model S owners, oddly, have only spoken through the official public relations of the company. And in the California incident, despite vehement resistance to assume responsibility for the garage fire, Tesla announced it would provide its Model S owners with replacement charger connectors.
Another fire revealed last week, in Toronto, followed the same template. Only after Web site Business Insider reported that the incident occurred earlier in the month did Tesla confirm it. According to the story, the Model S owner’s fire detector went off after he returned home and parked in the garage, without plugging it in.
“What matters is the number of such incidents per car, and it is worth noting that gasoline car companies experience an average of five to ten times more fires per car than Tesla,” said an official company statement. “Also extremely important is the fact that there has never been a serious injury or death in a Model S as a result of a fire or any other cause.”
According to the same report, seven Tesla employees visited the owner and offered to pay for “the damages and the inconvenience caused by the fire,” but the owner declined the offer. The photos provided with the Business Insider report show an extremely charred garage with undoubtedly extensive damage – why would the owner reject an offer to cover the costs? The obvious conclusion would be that a discussion with attorneys will come first.
After getting hammered late last year after the earlier series of fires, Tesla’s stock price has recovered to nearly $200. But NLPC has detailed the irrational exuberance on Wall Street over the company’s prospects. Tesla, and CEO Elon Musk (pictured with President Obama), are obsessed with keeping the company’s value inflated, using accounting gimmicks and other market-distorting practices like taxpayer subsidies to maintain an Apple-like appearance.
Meanwhile just about every other plug-in electric vehicle company or project – if left to its own capabilities and drained of government supports – has failed. Tesla’s tightly-controlled management and public relations machine has prevented that so far, but the fires keep on coming.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.