Tesla Safety Rating Controversy

Tesla Safety Rating Controversy

Ready to plug in and buy a Tesla? At an MSRP of $69,900, not everyone can afford one, but for those who can, there may be one more reason to rest easy with your purchase decision: safety.

Tesla says its cars are safe. And the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) agrees … to a point.

There is no denying that the 2014 Tesla Model S performed very well and received a high score in NHTSA safety tests. Perfect, in fact. They earned a five-star rating, the highest score that can be awarded in a battery of tests designed to give consumers the best possible information about production vehicles within a given model year. The results of the tests include data regarding, among other things, side-crash safety, front-crash safety, and the likelihood of the vehicle to roll over.

The Tesla performed especially well on the rollover test, revealing that the vehicle has a mere 5.7% chance of rolling over in the event of an accident. Tesla credits this to low center of gravity on the Model S, compared to that of comparable sedans.

Now, this is where the story gets interesting.

Tesla decided to celebrate the victory with a press release in which they did two things:

  1. They told recipients that their car was so safe it broke the NHTSA’s testing equipment, which is true.
  2. They claimed for themselves (even if only tongue-in-cheek) a more-than-perfect rating of 5.4 stars, which was not true, at least not according to the NHTSA.

Well, the NHTSA decided to make an example of the upstart electric-only car company, by making a rather pointed statement in which it said:

“NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories. In addition, the agency has guidelines in place for manufacturers and advertising agencies to follow to ensure that accurate and consistent information is conveyed to the public.”

So, the Model S may be safe, but it didn’t get 5.4 stars. That appears to have been an effort by zealous marketers.

The general safety of Tesla cars was called into question last year, when an investigation was launched into reports of battery fires. Although the NHTSA has yet to release the results of their investigation, German Federal Motor Authority Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt completed its own investigation. It stated that the 2014 Model S has no safety-related manufacturing defects and that there is no reasonable cause for further investigation.

 

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