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Tesla's claim that its Model S received a record-breaking safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is raising a few eyebrows, with some critics (including NHTSA) claiming the automaker is bending numbers to make its all-electric sedan look like the safest car on the road. Tesla's Model S did indeed achieve a 5-star overall safety rating from NHTSA. Nobody is debating that. But here's the rub: Tesla is claiming to have actually exceeded the 5-star mark.

Tesla is saying they have the safest car--or at least have achieved the top NHTSA vehicle safety score ever--and that's not in line with NHTSA's guidelines.

"NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5," said Tesla in its original press release, "however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars."

Although derived from the same test data, VSS scores are not intended to be reported according to the NHTSA's 5-star scale, meaning that the automaker is making certain assumptions in order to project a combined 5.4-star rating. Tesla claims this score is the "best safety rating of any car ever tested," exceeding even all SUVs and minivans, and sets a "new NHTSA vehicle safety score record."

That's a no-no, according to NHTSA.

"NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories," explained NHTSA through a statement on the agency's website. The statement pointed to NHTSA's communication usage guidelines, which further stipulate that "NHTSA strongly discourages the use of potentially misleading words such as 'perfect,' 'safest,' 'flawless' or 'best in class' to describe the star rating received by the vehicle."

While none of the discouraged phrases are explicitly mentioned in Tesla's press release, the subtext is clear. Tesla is saying they have the safest car--or at least have achieved the top NHTSA vehicle safety score ever--and that's not in line with NHTSA's guidelines.

We reached out to Tesla for comment and the electric automaker says it stands by its press release.

Tesla Model S Named Safest Car Ever

[Photo: NHTSA]


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  • 129 Comments
      Gary Wilson
      • 1 Year Ago
      A man recently crashed his Tesla S here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, knocking down a utility pole and causing a power outage(irony). He however walked away relatively unscathed. According to a quote from the local newspaper, “Before police could release the electric vehicle to be loaded onto the flatbed wrecker, they had to secure information on how to turn off the Tesla Model S. Officials received technical instructions, and the all electric 4-door car was shut down.”
      whitcombc
      • 1 Year Ago
      The establishment Auto Cartel will do anything to try to crush Tesla. Remember the last time we saw this concerted effort? It was when the US industry was bankrupt (because the cars were lousy and suddenly the headlines were "Toyota Recalls, Honda Safety Recalls, Ford Highest overall ratings. RIght! I will probably have to buy a Kia or a Used Hyundai next because - despite the "press" there is no honesty at all in these articles. While the Prius was blazing trails, the VOLT was being touted as the ultimate before it was made. And the cars in Europe get far better mileage than the same car here due to the incest between Oil and Autos.
        harleridr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @whitcombc
        You may not be old enough but way there was a carb, built by a man named Fish. It offered aroundfifty MPG it was soon bought out by the big fuel companies in order to get it off the market. Check it out
      skjuice
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lets get real... with the price tag on that puppy it should be safer than a Sherman Tank.....Statistically one model S should be involved in one of every 1,516, 230 accidents........... like duh......... I still feel pretty safe in my 57 DeSoto Firedome...
        • 1 Year Ago
        @skjuice
        Does that have the 413 Red Ram wedge motor in it too?? The Adventurer in that year was a great car with the cross ram manifolds that took a chain fall to change the valve cover gaskets when the cork started leaking oil .. heh heh heh That manifold weighed in at 65 pounds each side.. Just so that two AFB's would have the ram effect on the innerds of the engine.. Gotta love them old Mopars though.. :)
        untitledfolder
        • 1 Year Ago
        @skjuice
        As long as you're an organ donor while driving your DeSoto Firedome, more power to you.
        drdiaboloco
        • 1 Year Ago
        @skjuice
        If you "feel pretty safe" in a '57 ANYTHING you are quite adept at fooling yourself.
        delia3630
        • 1 Year Ago
        @skjuice
        There are plenty of more expensive cars that burn dead dinosaur juice that don't score as high as the Tesla. The electric car is here to stay and Tesla is the reason.
          Weapon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @delia3630
          @semperfitexan - Yes, gasoline cars are expensive golf carts, that is why we need to move on. The Tesla Model S is a sedan and has as much trunk space as an SUV, A/C does not take up too much power and there are superchargers to charge and do battery swaps for long distance trips. Gasoline cars have no trunk space due to waste of space from the engine, not very efficient at running the AC and lets not get into the overpriced maintenance. Even an electric chair would be better then a gasoline car.
          semperfitexan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @delia3630
          What do you do when you need to drive father than a couple hundred miles ? They have no trunk space and with the A/C going they don't go far . All it is ,is an expensive golf cart . Just get yourself one of the electric chairs .
      Andrew Zotos Breslin
      Man, you can't buy publicity this good. Huge exposure over whether it has top safety ratings or it's the safest car on the road...
      Frank
      • 1 Year Ago
      This article is nonsense. While the NHTSA "discourages" the use of misleading words, the statements are true. Has any other car ranked ovr 5.4? no. Do the numbers that it put out present the vehicle to be the safest car? yes. The NHTSA gave it an overall score of 5.4, but says it doesnt publish scores over 5 stars. You either go over 5 stars or don't, can't have it both ways.
      spectrumprodec2
      • 1 Year Ago
      one things for sure; no gas in it to blow up
        beavis
        • 1 Year Ago
        @spectrumprodec2
        Yeah.. Arc flash electrical explosions can be quite devastating.
          Weapon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @beavis
          @beavis - The energy density of batteries are 100x less then gasoline. On top of that, each cell is individually sealed. Your not in any real danger of an electrical explosion. @1 - After 7 years you continue driving until 15-20 years. Then the batteries can be used as stationary power for a decade and then they can be recycle them and can be used as construction materials.
          1
          • 1 Year Ago
          @beavis
          and just what do they do with the batteries after 7 years I hear prius batts are 7000 bucks. This car is alfully nice looking. I have some of their stock and its going through the roof. Good for them the car is made in California so theres that.
        larrpull
        • 1 Year Ago
        @spectrumprodec2
        Li-ion batteries can blow up. Talk to the families of the UPS pilots whose plane burned up in the air because Li-ion batteries auto ignited,
      jekap55
      • 1 Year Ago
      The man who bought my od house has one. Two weeks ago he was stranded in a neighboring state because of a glitch in the electrical system. Has anyone heard about the reliability of these cars? They certainly are beautiful.
        Weapon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @jekap55
        The reliability is pretty good. But like all things, nothing can be perfect. I see many people stranded in areas due to engine failure on gasoline cars. So like all things in life, stuff happen. The bright side is that most of the time, Tesla can remotely fix issues over wireless. Unfortunately you can't fix a gasoline engine failure over wireless.
          kulpw40
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Weapon
          You can't fix mechanical problems over wireless yet an electrical problem can be? I smell an oxymoron here.
      Neil
      • 1 Year Ago
      Also a lot of energy and polution go into making batteries!
        Weapon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Neil
        Not really, depends where they are manufactured. If it is made in china, probably. Tesla's batteries are made in japan so the batteries pollute a lot less. That said, even if a battery is made in china, it would still pollute less then a gasoline car.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yeah, yeah. More attempts to sabotage Tesla's appeal and undermine it's pure awesomeness. It's been going on for years.
      clyogi
      • 1 Year Ago
      What's the difference since very few people can even afford the car. I went to a Tesla retailer and was told that they start at $90,000 when means only the top two-tenths of one percent have a chance of buying it.
        Weapon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @clyogi
        They start as 70k, so you must have went to some other store.
          bdhauto
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Weapon
          Ok $70k is affordable.
          larrpull
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Weapon
          70k after the taxpayer kicked in a bundle. I just drove home from LA , 22 hours straight. A Tesla would have taken days, stopping and recharging. My PT Cruiser cost 13k not 90k.
          Weapon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Weapon
          @larrpull - actually, I did not include the tax credit in the 70k price. And your PT Cruiser is not anywhere close in the same class as a Tesla Model S. My bicycle cost 100$, not 13k like your PT Cruise.
        Vadim A.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @clyogi
        why don't you also complain why Bentley is unaffordable? You want a cheaper alternative, get a Lief or a Prius. Tesla is a Bentley of electric cars.
          beavis
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Vadim A.
          Agree Luxury electric car. The perfect karma band-aid for the oil refinery owner guilted into trying to be green.
      Acme Widgets
      • 1 Year Ago
      The car is beyond reach of most car buyers, does not run far without charging (off the electric grid, which is polluting gas burner) and is in fact, not really relevant in the consumer market. Nice try though. It'll work for a few people that want to drive a $95,000.00 car and then stop half way to san Francisco to charge it up before you can drive again. Hope it stops near a charger, not on the lonely parts of I-5.
        semperfitexan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Acme Widgets
        Just think what a nice car $95,000 will buy . Who would want this pile of dung ?
        joefear
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Acme Widgets
        The car gets 208 to 265 miles on a charge. And it starts at $63,000.00 so please research some before you spout off. You are right that it is not for everyone, but not as far off as you suggest.
          semperfitexan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @joefear
          So you could get about 1/4 the way across Texas ? Piece of crap .
          ga7smi
          • 1 Year Ago
          @joefear
          and gonernment rebares are available in some states
      • 1 Year Ago
      Don't you just love it when Automobile companies over estimate the test results . they look foolish when the real truth comes out. Ford & Toyota are a perfect example Ford was caught in a Gasmileage Fraud they stated that the Ford Fusion & The Ford C Max got 47 Highway & 47 City not true also Toyota Prius stated in Ad's it got 50 miles to the Gal City and Highway . Also a Fable in the real world 43 open road and 45.5 in the city. Don't get me wrong both are good automobiles but in the real world of every day driving its just not the norm ! Weather conditions and Temperture make a great differance I think people would rather have the companies under estimate . it would make for better public relations.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Explain to everyone exactly how Tesla 'overestimated' their test results. Everything single they said was a provable fact.
        semperfitexan
        • 1 Year Ago
        I think everyone knows conditions vary and have an impact on MPG . I have a Chevrolet pickup that had 12 MPG on the sticker and guess what ? It gets about 13 , no big deal .
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