• Aug 22, 2013
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
      • 2 Days 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.”
      • 2 Days 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
        • 2 Days Ago
        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
      • 2 Days 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.
      jekap55
      • 2 Days 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
        • 2 Days 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
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Weapon
          You can't fix mechanical problems over wireless yet an electrical problem can be? I smell an oxymoron here.
      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...
      Neil
      • 2 Days Ago
      Also a lot of energy and polution go into making batteries!
        Weapon
        • 2 Days 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.
      • 2 Days Ago
      one things for sure; no gas in it to blow up
        beavis
        • 2 Days Ago
        Yeah.. Arc flash electrical explosions can be quite devastating.
          Weapon
          • 2 Days 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
          • 2 Days 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.
        • 2 Days Ago
        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,
      skjuice
      • 2 Days 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...
        • 2 Days 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
        • 2 Days Ago
        @skjuice
        As long as you're an organ donor while driving your DeSoto Firedome, more power to you.
        drdiaboloco
        • 2 Days Ago
        @skjuice
        If you "feel pretty safe" in a '57 ANYTHING you are quite adept at fooling yourself.
        • 2 Days 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.
      • 2 Days Ago
      Yeah, yeah. More attempts to sabotage Tesla's appeal and undermine it's pure awesomeness. It's been going on for years.
      ferrariqx
      • 2 Days Ago
      He likes being close to the kitchen door. He doesn't have far to go to work the dishwasher.
      • 2 Days Ago
      I want one
      Bob
      • 2 Days Ago
      Len, Get your facts straight. That original state of the art auto factory Tesla bought was the NUUMI plant in Fremont, CA, not Hawthorne. You've been watching MSNBC's mind numbing trash that they pass out as news too long.
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