Putting out the fiRe

      77 Comments on Putting out the fiRe

Tesla fireTesla Motors makes the coolest cars on the road.  Their beautiful design is complemented by lots of technical wizardry, including a giant 17-inch (!) touch screen in the dashboard.  Powered solely by a 60 or 85 kWh battery, models cost from $50,000 to more than $170,000, depending on how they are equipped.  Consumer Reports ranked the Tesla Model S as the best car it ever reviewed, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the Tesla S was the safest car it ever tested.  Tesla’s stock price went from $27 to $193 a share over the past year.  It’s been a great success story, until this week when a YouTube video almost became a public relations disaster.

A video shot by a passerby shows a Tesla engulfed in flames.  The driver said he struck some large debris which caused the car’s battery to catch fire.  The image of the supercar burning uncontrollably led to a big drop in the company’s stock price this week and forced Tesla CEO Elon Musk to publicly defend his all-electric car.  On the company’s blog Musk wrote, “Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank…the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are 150,000 car fires every year. Musk used the statistic in his blog: “That equates to one vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to one fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla. This means you are five times more likely to experience a fire in a conventional gasoline car than a Tesla!”

Musk was smart to use this data.  Car fires happen every day.  Because this viral video had the potential to damage Tesla’s safety record, the company’s public response has been appropriate and effective.  Stock prices are recovering, and I suspect any tarnish to the car’s reputation will go away–as long as there’s not another Tesla fire anytime soon.  Your thoughts?

77 thoughts on “Putting out the fiRe

  1. Jeremy Epstein

    This is a classic case of so called busy work being beneficial in the long run. An unfortunate incident occurred where a Tesla caught on fire but the company was prepared and armed with statistics that tout Tesla as a pretty safe car. By deflecting the attention off Tesla, they were able to not only avoid a PR nightmare but a company wide nightmare that could have ended in layoffs.

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  2. jessicaxxrebello

    In one of my other PR classes that I am taking this semester, I read a case study for an incident that JetBlue Airways had to address. In the case study, one of the company’s options was to place a greater emphasis on the winter storms role in the operational problems at JFK, which would help the case by redirecting some of the blame to the airport. This reminded me somewhat of the approach that Tesla Motors took when handling the situation. The JetBlue Airways incident was very different from the Tesla Motor’s car fire problem and it would have been wrong for them to place the blame on the airport. However, in this situation, I agree that they were very smart in using the statistic in their statement and it was very appropriate. Because they worded the statistic in the way- “that equates to one vehicle fire for every 20 million miles driven, compared to one fire in over 100 million miles for Tesla…” it made it easy for readers to understand what the statistic really meant and was very effective.

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  3. acasole

    I personally feel that Musk was extremely intelligent to use these beneficial statistics to support his point. This viral video could have been captured of any car and could have caused crisis for many companies. This particular situation can be considered tricky because it is about an electric car, rather than a car ran on gasoline. This makes it more difficult to defend the car and the brand because the car is out of the ordinary and is something that consumers aren’t familiar with. Because people aren’t used to electric vehicles, it is natural for them to automatically blame the incident on the fact that the car is electric rather than the information about the car hitting debris in the road. This accident may cause a slight issue for this type of vehicle, but ultimately I feel that it will not cause any long term issues for Tesla after the crisis blows over due to the powerful statistics that were expressed by Musk.

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  4. Lindsey

    Musk handled this problem with textbook precision. He clearly has an excellent PR team who explained to him the danger of letting negative information linger out in the open for too long with no response. If he hadn’t responded, there would have been room for countless rumors floating around and tons of inaccurate information. Such information would have reached the consumer from news organizations and private entities on the internet looking to drum up bad press about a successful company. He combated the situation with factual and honest information that no one could dispute. He pointed out the fact that will save the company, if it had been any other car, it would have been worse. His swift, honest announcement saved Tesla from a PR crisis.

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  5. janecapants

    I think Tesla handled the backlash of this video very well. Stating that the Tesla crash was far less dangerous than any other car crash was a very smart move. They proved that a Tesla car is just as safe, if not safer, as any other car company. Car crashes happen all the time, it is just unfortunate that someone filmed it and made it seem far worse and rare than it actually is. I don’t think Tesla could have reacted any better than they did. Musk used fact and went about the incident calmly. Tesla should not have to worry about anything because of how well this situation was handled.

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  6. Jordan Richmond

    I feel as if the team handled it well by bringing in those statistics. They’re somehow managing to take an unsafe image and turn it into something which shows that they’re still safer than most. It’s unfortunate that a success story like Tesla can experience this – I’d think it was obvious that if a freak event happened, the car wouldn’t handle it perfectly. If a machine isn’t designed for a certain thing to happen, one can’t expect the machine to operate perfectly and without flaw. As long as no one else has this sort of incident, I feel like Tesla may drive away mostly unscathed.

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  7. Alexandra Ciongoli

    I think it is incredibly unfair for the public to be so harsh on Tesla. This was an isolated incident that is not a common occurrence. Besides, this incident is not the BP oil spill of car accidents; Teslas’ car models are not any more dangerous than any other car models. In fact, Tesla cars are safer during car accidents than most other car models, as stated in this blog post. If Tesla was having a number of the same type of malfunctions due to a problem with the car itself, the way that Toyota did with their Prius model in 2010, then the media and the public would have the right to want to tar and feather the company. I think Tesla is getting some very rough negative press right now, and sadly the only thing they can do is ride this out and keep making their quality cars until people forget about this incident.

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  8. kerry stewart

    Tesla cars are no doubt perfect in design and their all-electric perk definitely rings in the publics attention. I think the CEO handled the situation beautifully as it is foolish to think that Tesla’s are now prone to car fires just because there was one caught on video. It’s safe to say all people that drive on the road have seen a car fire or at least begin to smoke and they are even lower priced models and brands such as Jeeps and Toyotas. It’s extremely difficult for the public to justify pinpointing Tesla as a fire catching vehicle, it’s just not realistic given the statistics.

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  9. Robert Ryan

    The fact that Tesla responded immediately after the incident and with factual information (not vague business talk) will help Tesla recover just fine eventually. Toyota had a recurring issue where the gas pedals would stick to the floor and cause high speed crashes. Even they have recovered and it was not a single incident in their case. Car fires happen all the time as the statistics show. Unfortunately for Tesla someone was right there to videotape the entire incident. But Tesla’s speedy response and honesty will have their stocks return to normal within a couple of months.

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  10. Richard Rocha

    Great save here. Having the statistics to back up the fact that car fires happen all the time and Tesla cars have less of a chance to combust than other cars definitely helped the stocks recover and helped the company gain some of it’s positive publicity back. Viral videos can have an unfair impact on a company without giving any statements or real facts to accompany the visual. Without public relations, this can be heavily detrimental. Kudos to Musk.

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  11. Richard I

    I believe that Musk handled this PR crisis very well. At first, my initial reaction was that Telsa cars are unsafe but then they acknowledged in their blog that thess situations do occur and provided statistics to back up their claim. With this information, the public is now aware of the dangers of car fires and that they actually do occur often. Because of Musk’s information, Telsa’s reputation has recovered from what possibly could have been the end of their company.

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  12. rachaeldurant

    This was a very effective way of dealing with a potential crisis. Using data is particularly effective because consumers tend to think that numbers don’t lie. Musk’s comments were truthful and informative for the consumer. It was important to point out that this kind of tragedy can occur in any vehicle due to uncontrollable circumstances. It was not as though the Tesla spontaneously combusted. A swift response was exactly what the situation warranted.

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  13. Olga

    I like the way Tesla’s CEO handled this situation. He didn’t ignore it and just appealed to the common sense by using statistics data. In fact, the company may even benefit from this accident, as Musk’s opposing regular gasoline tank cars to electric cars in a safety issue sounds really convincing.

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  14. KG28

    Statistics work for consumers! When a company depicts error, especially when it involves the safety of its consumers, opinions on behalf of the company in question will not suffice. Musk’s inclusion of stats showed that he took the time to research how often this has happened with all-electric vehicles verses competing gasoline powered vehicles. An effort to research whether or not there is any adverse impact on his company verses others, put the company in a good light (as stock prices rose) and certainly reassured some consumers that Tesla products can be trusted. I agree that Musk’s response was appropriate and effective and I believe it saved Tesla’s credibility.

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  15. daniel1nelson

    Viral videos have the potential to completely destroy reputations overnight in today’s digital world. I believe that Musk handled this video extremely well. Rather than make a huge deal of it, he simply released a blog post with facts that prove his car is still the safest on the road. While the video may have been bad press, Musk’s recovery easily made up for it.

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  16. nicole_lombardo

    This was a terrible PR situation for Tesla but they were able to handle the situation and walk away with only minor infractions. It’s unfortunate the fire happened and that there is always a chance of another one happening but Tesla was able to turn that situation around with some great PR help and that is the honesty of everything. The CEO didn’t try to hide or deny it or even say it was a fluke, he went straight to the point and found the statistics to explain the situation. He showed that even though a terrible incident occurred Tesla is still safer than a gasoline car. I believe that honesty is the key to fix most problems, no consumer wants to be lied to it causes a distrust and bad thoughts about a company.

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  17. Max Eisenberg

    Using statistics to defend himself and the company was the intelligent thing to do in this case. I don’t understand why this is even an issue relating to Tesla other than the fact that it was a car made by them involved in the fire. This fire seemed to have nothing to do with the car being defective, so they shouldn’t be at fault, just as any other car company is not to blame for car accidents involving their models. I can’t imagine this will tarnish Tesla’s reputation in the long run as long as they keep putting out safe, reliable cars. Musk did the right thing though to reassure his customers that this is a rare incident and they are still in safe hands.

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  18. Rachel Tom-Quinn

    Musk handled this correctly. As I learned in media relations, handling the media poorly or ignoring problems that the media knows about can ruin a company. I believe the average consumer understood. The incident was handled quickly because it was addressed quickly.

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  19. twade1031

    I believe that Elon Musk handled this situation in a very intelligent way. He did the most important thing, which was handling the problem very quickly, in an honest fashion, using scientific tests and findings to substantiate their claim. The fact that there was no dishonesty or cover-up of the situation helped keep many customers. Had it not been handled that way, I’m sure many consumers would be far less impressed with the company because they are not trustworthy.
    The statistics provided to the public to back up Tesla’s claims were beneficial in the way that the average consumer, seeing the incident, does not affiliate an engine/battery fire with Tesla cars alone. They understand that this situation happens all of the time, and it is not a reflection specifically upon the Tesla brand. Not only that, but it also served as another potentially great marketing strategy. The fact that someone is more likely to get into a worse fire-related accident in another type of vehicle makes Tesla’s vehicles look even better.

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  20. Nick Stiles

    I believe this was the appropriate response to an event like this. It could have really tarnished the image of the Tesla car being the future but the quick action by Musk saved them. By not only addressing a video they could have just as easily ignored but providing statistics to support the safety of the car he stopped any real damage. No vehicle is ever going to be completely safe, accidents will always occur and this one event is not enough to condemn the Tesla car.

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  21. stacy05

    I think the response of the CEO was fast and effective. The PR team who handled the case was able to reassure their current and even future customers very rapidly. Which was necessary in order to save the company’s reputation and save the brand. They were very informative and even provided statistics. In such crisis situation acting fast and efficiently is crucial. The fact that Stock prices are recovering is great evidence that it does work.

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  22. Sharlys Leszczuk

    Every time a new car comes out, people are always looking for something to go wrong. I remember when Ford’s hybrids first came out everyone thought they were death traps. With time, people forget about these small incidences and as long as more car fires don’t occur, Tesla will be fine.

    This is definitely a huge PR opportunity because as you mentioned in your blog, now people know that the pressure in the gas tank makes it much less likely for car fires to occur compared to all gasoline vehicles.

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  23. LaChele Prophet

    Musk was smart to respond as quickly as he did. He had all the facts prepared to defend his company. Incidents like this do happen all time and Tesla was smart to be upfront with the public. By being upfront he was able to keep his company in good standing. Great PR move. Hopefully nothing like this happens again because the next time the public may not be so forgiving.

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  24. Ishan Kumar

    In this particular PR crisis, Musk led from the front and defended his car by giving accurate facts and statistics. But I still feel that more could have been done in terms of PR. Just a blog is not is not enough to win the hearts of its customers. I certainly feel that the CEO was quite defiant in his blog. As we have learned that empathy goes a long way, the CEO should have shown more empathy and little more politeness in his blog rather then just providing blunt stats.
    Moreover I feel that CEO Musk should have visited media channels telling people what went wrong in their car and what the company is doing to fix the issue so that in future a similar crisis would not occur.

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  25. Laurel Smith

    Added: In Terms of PR, I think the immediate move Musk made was the right one. However, in avoiding future problems I would apply what was said in my first blog post, that is that the smaller things should not be overlooked. PR representatives could then potentially look at the Tesla problem from the safety angle, giving the story a whole new twist to the issue at hand.

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  26. Laurel Smith

    It may seem a bit annoying and nit picky, but the thing that stood out to me in the blog post wasn’t the video shot by the passerby nor the statistic Musk used in his blog. In your second sentence, you describe Tesla’s design as one with lots of “technical wizardry, including a giant 12-inch (!) touch screen in the dashboard…” Now, pause for just a second. Doesn’t it seem a bit confusing with all the laws that are being heavily enforced against texting and driving (otherwise distracted driving) that a car company would then install a 12-inch screen right into its model? If we’re so worried about accident prevention, it wouldn’t be the low percentage chance that my car battery would catch on fire that I would be anxious about, but rather whether the person in the oncoming lane is paying attention to me or not. I feel that a lot of times we are critical about the big things that are less likely to occur and overlook the small details that happen on a daily basis. If Tesla and other companies are so worried about customer safety, they may want to look again at their design models.

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  27. Hector Bonilla

    I’m afraid I can’t entirely jump on the bandwagon of support for Mr. Musk, as there are a few issues I noticed with his response. One was the beginning paragraph, which comes a little too close to laying the blame solely on the truck and the debris it created. Then he pointed out the mistake the firefighters made at the scene that caused the fire to go on longer. Then of course, he moves right into extolling the virtues of battery-powered cars over gasoline-powered, almost ignoring the fact that despite the statistics one of his cars DID catch on fire. I’m not saying he made the wrong response, but I believe he could have avoided potentially alienating certain publics. He did respond in a timely manner and brought proven facts to the table, but the way in which he organized it comes across as potentially condescending and a little cold.

    By contrast, his VP of Sales and Services’ letter to the customer who experienced the accident seems genuinely sympathetic for the most part, and the response from said customer is quite frankly beautiful PR. Of course, if the customer in question was anyone other than an investor who by definition is financially tied to the company’s well-being, Musk might have risked a lawsuit – however frivolous – when he essentially spelled out, “Your car shouldn’t have caught fire, but it’s just one of the unlucky few that did.” What Tesla should do is open with the original letter, then the responding one from the customer, and THEN display Musk’s response – and add a concise apology at the beginning of that response.

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  28. Francesca Bove

    Tesla did a very good job of responding to the situation. They used the perfect statistics and examples to back themselves up and keep their image in a good light. Just because a car is the best and safest car doesn’t mean its perfect. Nothing is perfect. I don’t think this incident is going to affect the company in any way because it will be forgotten about since it was one solitary instance along with the fact that Musk responded with the statistics that he did. If it happens again and again it will eventually become a problem.

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  29. Nancy Haas

    In any PR crisis, it is essential to address the issue right away, be honest, accurate, and comforting to target publics. Tesla was successful in its endeavor to recover from this crisis. Not only did they act quickly, but included credible statistics that made their case very strong. Whether crisis management was handled by Tesla’s PR team or the CEO, the car company executed their plan with perfection. Although the situation could have potentially sabotaged Tesla’s reputation, I believe the way it was dealt with will eliminate any long term negative consequences.

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  30. taylorcebutler

    Outstanding move on Musk’s part. My first thought would have been to address it as a freak accident, but either his or the PR team’s idea to use statistics of electric versus conventional gasoline cars was well thought out.

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  31. Max N.

    Tesla’s PR department handled this situation admirably. Having Elon Musk personally respond with solid, reassuring facts is the perfect thing to calm the minds of potential customers. Even in the light of the situation the PR impact was relatively mild. Tesla’s stock price barely dropped when compared to the massive increase it saw over the last year. Tesla has a great image which its not loosing any time soon.

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  32. Cody Dano

    I think the way in which Musk responded to the situation was brilliant. Instead of trying to cover up the accident and place blame on something or someone else, the company did everything they could to comfort their customers. Im sure this move will have a positive impact on their company throughout the next few months.

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  33. Brenna O'Shea

    Musk responded to this crisis in a very well, prepared, and professional way. If he responded to this crisis in a way that portrayed lack of professionalism, knowledge, and facts, the reputation of the company would have been viewed in a negative way which would but the company at risk. Musk did an excellent job in saving his company and making sure that it was protected.

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  34. marilynoliver

    Wow, Elon Musk, or whoever represents him responded perfectly. He didn’t deny anything but offered a different perspective that actually makes Tesla look safer than other cars. Definitely a case study to learn from!

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  35. rachelcarru2

    Musk did an exceptional job at taking control of this potential public relations disaster. With only one or two statements, he pointed out the most important facts and statistics that would make anyone who was trying to flout Tesla’s safety look very uneducated. Whether this was meant to ruin the company’s reputation or not, it doesn’t matter because Tesla’s representatives are obviously very intelligent. The information Musk provided made it possible for the consumer to reestablish his or her opinion on the company. They didn’t feel pressure and didn’t feel that they were being convinced by the company to feel a certain way. Very smart crisis aversion!

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  36. Maria Pascarella

    I think Musk handled this fragile situation perfectly. He was prompt, honest, and used statistics to put the public at ease. Musk admitted that these fires do happen and no car is always fire or accident proof, but he did reassure his customers that the car is still the safest on the road, successfully avoiding a public relations disaster.

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  37. Adriana Fitting

    Without a doubt, Elon Musk’s prompt communication reassuring the public Tesla is a safe vehicle model was an effective strategic PR move. Gaining the audience’s trust with statistical facts is a powerful persuasive technique to convince the publics the statements made are accurate and objective. It seems a potential PR crisis for the manufacturer was subdued and a blog entry by the CEO was a successful platform to gain control of the potentially bad publicity; however, I wonder why the statement was not delivered via YouTube video, after all, this seemed to be where the crisis was happening?

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  38. Isabela Jacobsen

    I think the company did a good job saving themselves because their statement seemed very accurate and reliable. The fact that they did not ignore the situation really helped them appeal to people. There are several times companies choose not to respond to these kind of situations for a while, and they did the right thing by addressing it. The facts and numbers made them sound even better when supporting the company! This made them seem very reliable and trust worthy to the audience, reassuring the safety of their car. I even checked out the video and in the comment section there was not a lot of hate on the company! There was actually more hate comments about the person filming and there were comments actually defending Tesla Motors. This already shows that there are people still loyal to the company.

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  39. adrianazappolo

    This is a great example of how to properly deal with a crisis. The PR that is done in a situation like this could ultimately make or break a company. It was very smart that Musk not only addressed what happened in the video right away, but he used statistics to prove a point. A simple, straightforward statement is much more effective than acting defensively, or ignoring a situation all together. Plus, you can’t argue with numbers. Statistics are believable and factual. Tesla’s PR definitely saved the image and reputation of the company.

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  40. Julia Ryan

    I think that using statistics is always a smart tactic, especially in a potential PR crisis like this one. People love hearing numbers, especially when those numbers make them feel safe or confirm their existing beliefs. The statistics he used worked well to prove that the car was still safe, so it helped to eliminate people’s fear. I am actually surprised to see how much of an effect the video had on the car’s image. I feel like if I watched that I wouldn’t really blame the car company for the accident. Nevertheless, it was smart for the publicist to be proactive and catch the potential problem before it got worse.

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  41. Reina Morrison

    It was very smart for Musk to act as quickly as they did in this situation. As soon as people see that there may be something wrong with a product, they start backing away from it immediately, so it’s important for company’s to give an immediate response. It was good on their part to state facts, and help the consumer understand that their cars are actually safe. Great damage control.

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  42. Danie Zolezzi

    This is a great example of a fast acting and productive public relations team. The Tesla company was able to quickly address the crisis and immediately fix it before it became a fiasco. The action the company took by coming right out and publicly talking about the problem was the best decision. Often times companies try to avoid directly addressing the negative publicity which does not work in their favor. I commend this company for being so proactive and capable of avoiding a potentially huge blow to the reputation of the company.

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  43. Zoe Hoffmann

    Musk did something that is very rare in today’s consumer world: he acknowledged the incident. Especially in today’s industry, it is unthinkable for a company to be willing to own up to mistakes and mishap with their brands, because of fear of backlash. While the Tesla video has gone viral, what is going to positively affect Tesla is the ownership the company took. The fact that Musk then turned the situation into almost a positive thing for Tesla by stating facts about car accidents that were in favor of Tesla was a genius move by his PR team. The fact that anything can go viral these days (professional videos, amateur videos, random things) is a testament to the instantaneousness of the internet. Things come and go so fast that tomorrow this will soon be forgotten. But in the minds of PR people, this minor PR flop quickly became a victory for the brand.

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  44. csawye2

    When there is a crisis it is essential that the organization or person acts quickly. Musk was smart to post in his blog as he gives consumers important statistics immediately. One of the most important things to do in a crisis is to respond and have a statement rather than ignore the issue. Musk actually used the statistic he presented to his and Tesla motor’s advantage. The stat showed that Tesla cars were in fact much safer than others. Overall, Musk acted quickly and possibly saved Tesla’s reputation.

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  45. Sarah ElSayed

    I really like the way Musk addressed the controversy. He used factual information to aid his audience in understanding the statistical occurrence of these types of situations. The facts spoke for themselves and he didn’t need to lie to get his point across.

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  46. Dilpreet Kainth

    Tesla is a good brand of cars and in terms of how they handled the “Youtube video scandal”, I believe it was appropriate. Oftentimes, if there is a PR crisis such as this, there are also PR mistakes in which the CEO or an employee will say something that leads to worse results. Tesla motors chose the right method. They used facts and statistics that would lead be more believable in their defense. Toyota is another example of a car company that has dealt with a PR crisis. When they recalled several cars because of unintended acceleration, they handled it in an appropriate way. Tesla could have easily had a representative speak on the company’s behalf. However, they handled it in a way where it was not only a person speaking for them, but it was also an individual who actually knew what he was talking about used facts that were beneficial to the company.

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  47. Kim Gray

    Elon Musk did the right thing by addressing the issues at hand and added the statistics to back him up. This is a good example of how research and measurement came into play and was very beneficial in this case. I think this strategic thinking has to be one of the best strategies of handling a crisis and without damaging Tesla Motors image. Musk definitely saved Tesla Motors from faltering. Great strategic planning from the PR team!

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  48. Lauren Platt

    Musk used the correct tactics in this case and was very smart about how he went about everything. He did the right thing by including the statistics he used and handled the situation very well. He did not try to deny anything but instead put the true facts out there.

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  49. Kelly Cormier

    Addressing this video was the first smart move made by Musk in this situation. The worst thing the company could have done is ignore the situation at hand. The second smart move made by Musk was to address the issue of car fires in general and point out the fact that yes, this was a horrible incident but it could have been much worse had the car been a typical gasoline sedan. Although in PR it is not always the best strategy to throw someone else under the bus, this was clearly based off of fact and saved the company’s positive image from spiraling downward.

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  50. Will Martinez

    By pointing the finger at gasoline cars, Musk and Tesla sidestep a lot of scrutiny due to the fire. As a PR professional, it can sometimes be risky to avoid questions and point fingers. But Musk, Tesla’s CEO, related the incident to gasoline powered cars (a relatable topic for most Americans). His crafty and successful PR stunt was a great rebound for Tesla after the accident.

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  51. sjelli1

    The CEO of Tesla is clearly very good at his job. Instead of allowing the public outcry and stock drop to faze him and allow his focus to waver, he stood strong in the face of adversity and refuted the claims of danger brought on by this YouTube video. His use of rational facts supported by data show how much safer a Tesla car is than a conventional gas-operated vehicle. If Musk had allowed himself to respond in a manner that shows panic, there is a huge possibility that he could have further pushed away potential customers and current ones.

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  52. Nathalie Salazar

    I believe the PR tactic of addressing issues rather than “going away” is the most effective. How Elon Musk approached this bad publicity is a great example of that. Also, by answering the concerns with facts made his address to the issue more professional and credible. I believe Elon’s fast response to the issue saved his company. If he would have ignored it, the company’s image would have continued to deteriorate.

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  53. Yeliz A

    Musk did a great thing to help save the reputation of the Tesla company. There have way too many instances in which CEOs and PR reps refuse to make any sort of comment regarding a serious or controversial issue. When you’ve got an amateur video like this gaining over a million views that’s when you know it’s time to step up and make a comment. If Musk were to ignore the situation the problem would’ve never been solved and their stock prices would’ve continued to drop. The public likes resolutions and hearing the truth. If and when statements are made people will go about their lives and move on to something else. Musk not only made a statement that stopped public commentary, but he also made his company look better by comparing the Tesla to a conventional car and stating that the damages would’ve been far worse. It was a smart move on their part and it immediately cleared public concern before things got uncontrollably worse for the company.

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  54. Adria Marlowe

    Tesla’s CEO helped stabilize the PR crisis by responding promptly and transparently. Instead of downplaying the incident, his statement provided comparative data and additional safety information about Tesla products to help reinforce consumer confidence. In addition to using data about the occurrence of car fires, I thought his case was strengthened by highlighting Tesla design features that allowed the driver to “depart the car without injury,” including the on board alert system and firewalls that contained the fire towards the front of the vehicle.

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  55. Play Ball!

    The internet is a crazy phenomenon, and can seriously affect everything it touches. Companies, and people too, cannot control what other users of the internet chose to share on the most public forum of all. With websites like YouTube, and the growing popularity of videos, this is a problem that occurs more and more.
    Tesla cannot control the fact that one of their cars caught on fire, and that a passerby recorded it to share it with the world. What Tesla can control, is their response and reaction. I think Musk, and his PR team, of course, did a very good job handling this crisis. Including data and statistics that people can understand and relate to was smart. Also, the fact that Tesla already has such great reviews from influential organizations works in their favor. A PR crisis can happen at any moment, and PR teams have to be prepared. Tesla was prepared.

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  56. Leia Schultz

    That video is frightening! Probably frightening enough to turn some people from choosing to purchase a Tesla in the near future. However Musk’s response is a perfect way to respond to this fiery situation. Given Tesla’s remarkable features and safety record, I wouldn’t imagine that this incident – while scary – will seriously damage Tesla’s brand name in the long term.

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  57. lmansl1

    One of the best things I learned from a SPCM class I took is that the best way to make yourself credible is through the use of statistics. Tesla could have easily taken many other approaches to this crisis situation that would have been detrimental to the company. Through the use of statistics he showed the public that car fires happen frequently, something that the public might not have known otherwise.

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  58. Brittany Witter

    I think Musk and Telsa have handled this particular crisis very well! I think that the use of the statics information helped them show that not only their company has accidents, and that if a consumer has purchased one of their cars they are less likely to get into a fiery accident.

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  59. jaimesilano

    Elon Musk did an excellent job handling this potentially hurtful publicity. This proves that what we discussed in class about being honest and confronting an issue without trying to hide or lie about it is the most effective way to handle a negative situation. Since he came out right away with real statistics that put the incident into perspective, he was successful in controlling the damage done to Tesla’s reputation. A very important aspect of publicity is the context in which information is put out to the public. Obviously, once people saw the Tesla engulfed in flames, their initial reaction was fear. However, because Musk put everything in context (by using statistics to show that this was not a result of the car being unsafe) people probably re-evaluated the situation. I think it was a great tactic on Musk’s part to explain the statistics and immediately act on the incident.

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  60. VanessaV

    It was a great strategy that Musk used to defend his company. Using statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, really gave them the credibility that they lost when the car caught fire . It was not only was a good public relations move but, a good response to inform the public; about a category that they might not be aware of which is the oftenest of car fires. Also by putting that information out they maintained customers but, they might have attracted new ones that want to switch from gasoline cars to electric after Muck presented his statistics.

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  61. Joe Flanagan

    I think that this is simply a blemish on the reputation of Tesla. There have been other automakers that have been able to recover from something far worse than what Tesla experienced.
    Toyota is a perfect example because their Prius had a major issue with the gas pedal sticking to the floor. This caused major high speed accidents across the United States. After the recall, Toyota came out and apologized for the issue with the pedals, and after a few months, they were back where they were in stock price and sales.
    Toyota’s issue was more severe and was on a much larger scale. If they were able to come back, I do not see why Tesla will not be able to. Especially since Musk’s responded with factual evidence that still shows his vehicles are superior and have not been a danger to the public.

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  62. cmadsenpr

    Musk seems like a great public figure and a smart man. Just because a car is “safe” doesn’t mean that nothing is ever going to happen to it so I think it was very malicious of whoever posted the video of the car on fire to specifically target the fact that they say it’s the safest car on the road. Using the statistics Musk used explained that Tesla cars are not perfect, but they are better than a conventional car, and I think the statistics he used proved his point without lying or exaggerating. He kept his cool and addressed the situation openly, so I don’t think Tesla Motors will have any further problems in the future.

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  63. Ariana Goldklang

    I think Musk handled this unfortunate situation the best way he could. When he gave the facts about having a car with a conventional gas tank being five times more likely to go on fire, that put people at ease a little more. Unfortunately no car is 100% safe but I think Telsa handled this bad PR situation very well and were able to fix it.

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  64. Emily J DiLaura

    CEO Elon Musk handled the situation just as he should have. Car fires happen. It is almost inevitable when you are driving something so powerful yet so flammable. Musk’s use of statistics and honesty really save the company and the whole idea of an electric car. Musk did not try to make up some lavish story, he stated facts and turned the bad into good as he says how less likely this type of incident is with a battery driven car instead of a gas driven car. I have no doubt that Tesla Motors will survive this bad publicity, as they seem to have a very strong company base.

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  65. akrame27

    Musk’s use of statistics in the company’s blog was an excellent move by the company’s PR team to help save the company’s reputation. Including this very useful information not only help saved the company but also educated the public about the great deal of car fires that occur each year that are more likely to happen to cars with a conventional gasoline tank. This puts Tesla cars back in the running as the top car to purchase because they are in fact less likely to catch on fire. This truthful and necessary information stated by Musk was an excellent move to help save the company.

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  66. Laura Schioppi

    I agree that Musk handled this PR situation very well. He had to turn a huge negative into a positive in order to win back customers. It’s unfortunate we have to be scared with our way of transportation. However, Musk reassured customers by displaying those statistics. This was a very smart public relations technique. Hopefully his word will not cause controversy in the future if another accident happens.

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  67. jeremydbeck

    I saw this video and it did make me question the safety of Teslas cars. However, by giving me information about car safety, and real data about electric car performance in accidents, I no longer question Teslas safety. I think Musk did a good job informing the public of the facts so they wouldn’t be swayed by sensational internet videos.

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  68. Alexandra Cohen

    I think Musk handled the PR disaster very well. Giving the statistics helped show customers and stockholders that accidents happen all the time no matter how safe the car is and accidents can happen to anyone anywhere. The stock is recovering and customers have put their faith back in Tulsa once again. If Musk didn’t handle the situation the way he did, the company would have never recovered the way it did. The YouTube video would have been bad for the company, but thankfully Musk told the truth. This is the way a CEO should act and assure customers and stock holders.

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  69. bschac5

    Tesla was smart to react fast in this situation. Moreover they acted smart choosing the CEO (Musk) as the spokesperson and pulling out the data from the car. This is an example of crisis communication at its finest because stock prices are already bouncing back; slowly but nonetheless up. Musk’s post on the company’s blog: “Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse. In contrast, the combustion energy of our battery pack is only about 10% of the energy contained in a gasoline tank…the effective combustion potential is only about 1% that of the fuel in a comparable gasoline sedan” was excellent because it shows the consumers how much safer Tesla cars are. In this case the driver came out unharmed but had it not been a battery pack the damage could have been far worse. No car is perfect and there are so many factors that could play into an accident happening but Musk calmed the public down and showed that things can go wrong but it things could be much worse if one does not drive a Tesla vehicle.

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  70. Whitney Shepherd

    I definitely want to start off by saying Elon Musk is a very smart man and I can tell why he is the CEO of Tulsa. There is no vehicle out there that is 100 percent safe and every one knows that. However, Tulsa vehicles come very close to being 100 safe, but even then accidents happen. I think it was very smart of Mr. Musk to use the statistic about car fires to his advantage. Some might have thought that the YouTube video would have been a nightmare for Tulsa PR, but if you spin the facts correctly and in your favor anything is possible. Mr. Musk did a great job of stating the facts, placing the company in the right direction, and reassuring the potential customer and investors that Tulsa is still on top. I think one of the best strategies a PR person could have as far as handling a “crisis” when it comes to a client is to make the sure the public is reassured and is let know that everything is under control. I think Mr. Musk did a great job handling the issue and making sure his company was protected.

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  71. Chelsey Fuller

    I think Musk handled this whole situation very well. He used proven facts to back up his company and presented them in a way that did not come off too aggressive or insulting. His PR team did everything right. Most importantly, they told the truth. This not only makes the company look good but also shows to the customers that they are a trustworthy company. Personally I don’t think they could have handled this any better. They informed that public about the continued benefits of driving a Tesla and made the customer feel safe with the research that car fires are less likely in their cars. Musk saved his company from a potential downfall and regained a positive reputation.

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  72. croyal13

    Elon Musk is a very wise business man and knows how to handle a PR situation. By using this statistic in his defense, Musk put the disaster in perspective. Car fires are extremely common. Not only did he includes this factor, but continued to compare their product to all others. His statement gives the idea that by driving any other car, a person is more likely to experience a car fire. When it comes to stocks, people pay very close attention to any type of flaw in the product or news that may make their investments look bad. Musk knows that he must have an excellent PR strategy if he wants to maintain a positive image. A figure like Musk will want to make buyers invest in his products.

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  73. rtyler2

    The statistics show that car fires do occur more often then the public realizes. Musk used this information to the company’s advantage to help save their reputation. Musk wanted to educate the public on the number of car fires that do happen each year and why the car fire that the Tesla is more rare then most car fires. A car is more likely to catch fire if the car has a gasoline tank. Musk used this to Tesla’s advantage. The customer can continue to feel safe while driving the Tesla because there is a less likely chance of a car fire happening. I think Musk did his research and gathered correct information, which is what saved the company’s reputation.

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  74. Lyndi Catania

    The way Elon Musk went about this situation was very smart and didn’t keep the problem lingering out there for long. These kind of things occur every day, but it’s the defense that makes or breaks the situation. The statistics and data Musk used were very beneficial. He proves that a Tesla is still safer than a conventional gasoline car. The way he went about the situation saved the stock prices and soon enough people will forget this has happened. Musk saved the future of Tesla Motors. Perhaps even these statistics will bring more buyers.

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  75. Emily Green

    Musk was very smart to include these statistics to the company’s blog in an attempt to save their reputation. By adding this information, the public is educated about the large number of car fires that happen per year, as well as how much more likely it is to happen to cars with a conventional gasoline tank. With this information, the consumer understands that these things happen, and the driver was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when he ran into debris. The consumer will continue to feel safer with Tesla because of how less frequent these car fires happen, which is why the company’s numbers are going back up and they can maintain a positive reputation. Musk’s information was truthful which saved his company from a downfall of customers.

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