Tesla probing car blaze in France

Paris (AFP) - Pioneering US electric car firm Tesla said Tuesday it was probing an incident in which one of its Model S sedans caught fire while undergoing a test drive in France.

"We are working with the authorities to determine the circumstances of the incident and are offering our complete cooperation," Tesla Motors said in a message to AFP.

The incident happened on Monday in the southwestern town of Bayonne, it said.

All three people in the car, a couple and a female Tesla demonstrator, got safely out of the vehicle and were not hurt, Tesla said.

The driver of the car had signed up for a test drive on Facebook, the local daily Sud-Ouest said.

He slightly accelerated on one of the town's main streets when "a loud sound came from the car," the report said.

"In less than a minute, the car was in flames, and in five minutes it was totally destroyed," he was quoted as saying.

A video clip posted on Twitter by a witness shows the burned wreck of the car.

Tesla has gained high marks for seeking to revolutionise the electric car experience, initially with high-end luxury vehicles but more recently bringing prices down nearer to a more mainstream market.

Its Model S saloon, or sedan, is marketed in the United States at prices starting starting at $70,000. In 2015, it topped the US best car list for the second year running, according to a ranking by Consumer Reports.

US federal regulators also recorded two fires involving the Model S, one each in the US states of Washington and Tennessee in 2013.

In both cases, the cars involved hit debris on the road that pierced the chassis and caused a battery fire. Both cars were gutted by fire although the drivers in each incident escaped unharmed.

A third case was also reported in Merida, Mexico.

In March 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) decided to close an investigation into the incidents after Tesla vowed to reinforce the casing around the vehicle's lithium-ion batteries.

More recently, Tesla has been in headlines over its Autopilot self-driving feature.

An accident in the United States on May 7, in which the driver of a Tesla was killed in an collision with a truck, prompted a request for an explanation from a powerful US Senate committee.

A preliminary probe by the US National Transportation Safety Board found that the vehicle had been driving in semi-autonomous mode and was speeding at the time of the crash.

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