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Feds Scold Tesla For Saying The Model S Is Safest Car Ever Tested

Tesla's Model S electric car hit the headlines this week with some fantastical safety claims, which the U.S. transport safety body has just denied.

Well, don't say we didn't warn you. When Tesla suggested its Model S all-electric sedan was the safest car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and had scored more than five out of five stars, we were more than a bit skeptical. And we were right. Without directly mentioning Tesla, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) basically said such claims are wrong.

Forbes notes that the NHTSA made a pointed statement about its starred safety rating system on its website:

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.

There's no mention of Tesla, as may befit a statement from a supposedly independent government body, but the message couldn't be clearer: There's simply no such thing as 5.4 stars out of 5. Also, companies should be careful about abusing the rating system to tell little white lies to the public. Ouch.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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  • Michael Kostukov

    Look, Tesla never claimed to having received 5.4 stars. They explicitly stated that maximum is 5. However - more detailed results provided to manufacturers exceed any other car NHTSA has ever tested. Furthermore, those detailed test results EXTRAPOLATE to 5.4 star rating.

    So, Tesla never claimed it actually received 5.4 stars. That was claimed by overzealous media outlets that now blame Tesla, instead of admitting their inaccuracies. It goes like this:

    1) Tesla: "we received best test scores in history of NHTSA testing, which extrapolate to theoretical 5.4 star rating"
    2) Media: "Tesla got 5.4 stars! Safest car in the world! Safest! 5.4 Stars!!!!"
    3) NHTSA: "There is no 5.4 star rating"
    4) Media: "Tesla lied!!!"
    5) Me: facepalm

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  • Mcordeiro

    Tesla was right. The NHSTA rates cars with a Vehicle Safety Score (that is shared with the manufacturer) and then reduces that score to a 0-5 star scale (for the general public). They did report to Tesla that their VS score was 5.4, and this was the highest score they had ever tested. There are several cars out there with a 5 star crash rating but the Model S is the best amongst these. There was no white lie here. Why cant Tesla be proud of the car they manufactured? Also, would the NHSTA like us to believe that all 5 starred cars are equally safe? What is the likelihood of that? There must be a best 5 star car as well as the worst. Tesla has some convincing evidence that theirs is the best.