Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has blasted mainstream media several times now for the overreaction to the three Model S fires. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s absolutely right because of how common car fires are. Alex Davies of Business Insider ran the numbers for us again to put all of this into perspective.

Why Tesla’s Musk is so upset

The Department of Transportation reported that Americans drove 2.999 trillion miles in 2009. At that time, there were .78 vehicles per person in the U.S., which means there were almost 241 million vehicles. Most of those run on gasoline, and Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s vehicles are a very small number of those, somewhere in the ballpark of 20,000.

So when looking at all of these vehicles in 2010, there was one fire for every 1,305 vehicles and one fire every 16.26 million miles driven by people in the U.S. Of course all of these numbers are outdated by now, but this gives us an idea of just how much more common it is to have a fire in a gasoline-powered car than it is one of Tesla’s cars.

Musk reports that there are approximately 25,000 Model S sedans on the world’s roads which have driven more than 100 million miles or so. And there have been just three fires. That makes just one fire for every 8,333 Model S sedans and one fire for every 33.33 million miles Tesla drivers have driven. Clearly Musk is right to be upset.

NHTSA wrangles with Tesla again

What’s a little strange, however, is that Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) said on its blog that it requested that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to investigate the Model S fires. However, the agency told some media outlets, including Street Insider, that this isn’t the case at all.

Tesla already left a bad taste in the agency’s mouth earlier this year when it said the automaker went too far in hailing the five-star rating handed down by it for the Model S. Tesla is going to have to do some damage control on this one because it sounds pretty bad. The automaker hasn’t defended itself yet on this one.

Shares of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) rose 2% in early Thursday morning trading.

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