Oh, Tesla. Everyone’s favorite electric car maker, led by the eccentric Elon Musk, is under scrutiny again. This time, it’s by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which issued a brief statement over Tesla’s boast that it made earlier this week that the Model S is the safest car of all time, so safe that it actually earned 5.4 stars out of five. Here’s the statement in full:
NHTSA Statement on 5-Star Safety Ratings
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is committed to improving safety on the nation’s roadways and helping motorists make informed decisions about new or used vehicles they are considering purchasing. The agency’s 5-Star Safety Ratings program is designed to provide consumers with information about the crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles beyond what is required by Federal standards. One star is the lowest rating; five stars is the highest. More stars equal safer cars. 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.
This wouldn’t be the first time Tesla has issued a dubious, possibly exaggerated claim. When the company issued its new financing plan, it said the Model S could be had for a lowly sum of money, factoring intangibles like time-value of money into its calculations. There’s also that whole Hyperloop thing going on at SpaceX, Musk’s other enterprise, that we doubt will ever be built. Not that it can’t be, of course.
That said, Tesla has delivered on a practical, long-range electric car with an affordable long-distance charging solution. And it very well may be safer than any other car that has ever been produced. We hope to never have to find out firsthand. That said, Tesla might not be able to just come out and make such bold claims. The NHTSA’s rules are the NHTSA’s rules.