The distinctive scent of off-gassing plastic inside a new car can cause headaches, nausea and annoyance.

But a car crash?

Tesla driver blames fatal crash on new-car smell

A Santa Cruz resident has blamed the new-car smell of his Tesla Motors Model S for an accident that claimed the life of a bicyclist, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.

According to police, Navindra Kumar Jain fell asleep at the wheel on Nov. 2 and struck a UC Santa Cruz librarian biking on Highway 1. Santa Cruz County prosecutors announced Wednesday that they would charge Jain with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

The Sentinel quotes the accident report from the California Highway Patrol:

According to the initial CHP report on the crash, Jain bought the car new about 10 days before the crash. He told officers that the car had a strong, new-car smell that prompted him to use a baking soda car freshener in it. Jain told authorities that the smell caused him to fall asleep and there were no mechanical problems with the car…

The claim drew disbelief and scorn from Model S owners online. The family of the librarian, Joshua Alper, named Tesla in a lawsuit filed against Jain, according to the Sentinel.

– David R. Baker