Tesla Model S Owner Blames New Car Smell For Deadly Accident With Bicyclist


Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

In an odd twist, a 63 year-old Tesla Model S owner is now trying to blame the vehicle’s new car smell (it was only 10 days old at the time of the crash) for a fatal accident involving a bicyclist.

Back in November 2013, Model S driver Navindra Kumar Jain “crossed a double yellow line, drove up a hill, drove down a hill, and finally crashed into bicyclist Joshua Alper, killing him as a result,” according to Jalopnik.

The accident occurred on Highway 1, north of Santa Cruz, California.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel states:

Model S Interior

Model S Interior

“According to the California Highway Patrol’s initial report, Jain fell asleep at the wheel about 11:15 a.m. and struck Alper head-on. Jain was not injured in the crash.”

“Wednesday, prosecutor Greg Peinado said Jain will be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony because evidence suggests that Jain did not “act in such a reckless way that creates a high risk of death.”

Per the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

“Tuesday, an attorney for Alper’s family also filed a civil suit against Jain for negligence.”

“The suit — which also names Palo Alto-based Tesla Motor Co. — alleges that Jain carelessly and negligently drove into Alper. It also contends that the Tesla in the crash was “defective and unreasonably dangerous when used in a normal, intended and foreseeable manner,” according to the lawsuit.”

Jain says that the Model S’ new car smell was so strong that he put baking soda inside the vehicle to try to absorb/reduce the odor.  Jain blames the crash on this overpowering smell.  As he told authorities, the smell actually put him to sleep.  While sleeping, Jain unknowingly crossed the double yellow line, drove up and then down a hill and crashed into the cyclist.

Model S

Model S

For the record, authorities conducted a “lengthy investigation included crash-scene analysis, toxicology reports, interviews with witnesses, data from Jain’s cellphone and data from the car’s computer,” according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  Jain did not flee the scene.  The accident occurred at approximately 11:15 AM on November 2, 2013.

The story continues as Terry O’Reilly, an attorney for Alper’s family, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that “he had never heard of a new-car smell hindering a driver in his 44 years of trial experience.”

The Model S driver has not been arrested or arraigned.  Prosecutors plan to charge him with only a misdemeanor, not a felony.

O’Reilly seems perplexed by the misdemeanor charge:

“If you or I drove across Highway 1 and into the bushes, then steered straight back on to the highway and killed somebody, we would have been hauled off to jail in handcuffs.”

There’s no date set as of right now for Jain’s arraignment.

Tesla Motors has not commented on this incident.

Sources: Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jalopnik

Categories: Tesla

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24 Comments on "Tesla Model S Owner Blames New Car Smell For Deadly Accident With Bicyclist"

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Clearly a case of affluenza.


One of my worst fears is hitting a bicyclist in that in my area you will see them on the road at 9.30PM at night with only one little reflector to see them. While the roads in the area are some of the worst possible places to ride one.I know that if I ran over someone they would throw my furry butt in jail no questions asked.

I have never heard a story in my life of new car smell causing a car accident.

Is this technically the first Tesla-related death?

No kdawg. A Tesla struck a older Honda before and both of the people in the Honda died on impact.


Since these group of deaths happened months ago, why does Musk keep saying there hasn’t been a single death even tangentially related to a Tesla Vehicle? (As if I didn’t know).

Mr. Musk states that no one IN A TESLA MODEL S has been killed in an accident. That includes the suicidal 19 yr old who drove a a 300′ cliff! This 65 yr old can state that there was no overpowering new car smell in my new Model S. Just nice leather.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Well, it is California, there’s probably a jury stupid enough to buy it.

What the hell? Seriously, this actually makes me quite mad, this guy killed an innocent( as far as we know) person, and he isn’t getting charged with murder? There is definitely something wrong with that.

No there isn’t.
It was an accident, very possibly due to negligence, but an accident.

Without intent, it was not murder – but also certainly not a misdemeanor.

Manslaughter possibly but not murder.

BTW, I ride a motorcycle and every biker knows that there will be no penalty to the person that kills you while riding. They claim that they didn’t see you and they get off scott free. Bicyclists have the same situation.

What a terrible thing. My thoughts go out to the family of the cyclist. If the Tesla owner really thought the car was dangerous as he is implying he should’t have driven it. Sounds like another case of “It’s someone’s else’s fault” too me.



Shocking that a car would be unsafe…when the driver is sound asleep…that only happens in a Tesla, of course…

He should go to CARMAx next time. Btw what is wrong with Jalopnik is the new yellow press in town?

Not at all surprising. Every bicyclist knows that you can be run over with no penalty for the offender. They only need to say say, “I didn’t see them.”

If you can’t stay awake while driving then you shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car nor own one. Most sane people wouldn’t drive while drunk but driving when tired gets you the same effect.

Falling asleep in your car is (almost) never an accident. If you easily can prevent it then it’s not an accident. It should be considered man slaughter at least.

Not knowing the particulars f he case it is difficult to say what the charge should be, but as Mikael points out, usually manslaughter would most likely be the appropriate charge.

I predict the remake of the Steven King film, “Christine”, will feature a Tesla Model S. 😉

Uh, to those who say “kill a cyclist with no penalty”, there is going to be a clear penalty. Just not as severe as you (or I) would like. I, too, am hoping for manslaughter.

What I fear is his ridiculous defense might just work. Dude, man up and accept responsibility for your negligence. While California is notorious for flaky jury findings (love the psychic that won against a town because a rogue wave robbed her of said psychic abilities), most states have similar ridiculous findings.

I wish he would have bought a Mercedes or a Lexus, so I would have never heard about this….

*I guess the Tesla S was way too smooth and too quiet that combined with awesome new car smell, it put me to sleep. I should have bought a noisy gas engine car”…

Well, he was lucky that he didn’t drive off the cliff….