Yesterday the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved a waiver for Tesla Motors so that its all-electric Roadster could be sold in the U.S. despite not meeting advanced federal air bag requirements. Of note, however, are some comments made by the NHTSA when the waiver was granted. The organization gave Tesla Motors the pass because it did try to meet the government's advanced air bag standards and the Roadster will, of course, have airbags, but also because the, "public interest is served by encouraging the development of fuel-efficient and alternative-fueled vehicles."
While the NHTSA may want to come off as the benevolent bureaucracy that's promoting the future of motoring by granting this waiver, the truth is that a number of automakers have received the same free pass for their high-end, low volume supercars, including Ferrari, Bugatti and even Lotus for the Elise on which the Tesla Roadster is based. Ferraris and Bugattis are hardly examples of "fuel-efficient and alternative-fueled vehicles", and if the Elise was granted a waiver for its airbags, there's no reason to withhold it from the closely related Tesla Roadster. It is true that if Tesla Motors wasn't granted the waiver, it would not be able to deliver the first sold out batch of 2008 Roadsters in the U.S. and development of its next vehicle, the all-electric White Star sedan, would be cancelled. But we think the waiver was a pretty safe bet all along. Thanks to everyone who sent in this tip!
[Source: Kansas.com via Engadget]