Briefing

Amazon blames Tesla SolarCity panels for rooftop blaze at California warehouse in 2018, days after Walmart lawsuit

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Amazon said it does not plan on installing more Tesla products. Tesla called the fire an “isolated event” and said 11 other Amazon sites with SolarCity panels are operating normally. The statement comes on the heels of Walmart’s Tuesday lawsuit against Tesla, which alleges that SolarCity panels caused fires in at least seven retail stores, causing substantial damage to merchandise. On Thursday, Walmart and Tesla released a joint statement saying they are in talks to resolve their issues. (Bloomberg, Gizmodo)

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Talking point: This is the latest publicity blow to SolarCity, which has been a controversial Tesla acquisition from the start. When Tesla CEO Elon Musk acquired it in 2016, SolarCity was struggling with mounting debt, as well as problems on the consumer side, including accusations of shoddy installation. SolarCity customers have filed at least 671 complaints against the company with the Better Business Bureau, and 118 complaints with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. SolarCity used to sell and install solar panels it imported from China, but when demand started to outpace supply, the company started manufacturing solar panels in 2014, under Musk’s leadership. With the retail giants’ accusations, it seems the company’s alleged quality control issues may have extended into its manufacturing business. SolarCity was founded by Musk’s first cousin, and Musk was chairman of its board. Tesla shareholders launched a class-action lawsuit against Musk over the acquisition in 2018, arguing that Musk’s role as a controlling stockholder in SolarCity gave him undue influence in the deal. That lawsuit is ongoing.