2014 Model S Receives Top Crash Test Ratings

Tesla Motors said today it is still awaiting feedback from an ongoing federal investigation, but the same federal agency has reaffirmed the 5-star crash rating for the 2014 Model S.

The car was rated 5 stars in all categories for 2013, and the rating was carried forth without changes by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In August, when Tesla was rated 5 stars for the first time, company CEO Elon Musk made public relations hay stating NHTSA had effectively declared the Model S the safest car, bestowing 5.4 stars out of 5.

NHTSA quickly rebutted this claim, stating the ratings go only to 5 and that’s it.

“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,” said NHTSA.

Commenting today on the subject, Tesla said: “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reaffirmed the 5-star safety rating of the Tesla Model S overall and in all subcategories for Model Year 2014, confirming the highest safety rating in America.”

Tesla’s statement of “the highest” in America could be interpreted as a superlative, but it is believed technically within NHTSA’s guidelines forbidding automakers to stretch the truth for promotional purposes.

The 5-star rating is actually a “highest,” but Tesla cannot say its specific Model S is the highest among all competitors. Other cars also get 5 stars, and these can be considered no lower or higher under NHTSA guidelines.

To make it crystal, NHTSA reiterated to us its policy:

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is committed to improving safety on the nation’s roadways,” said a NHTSA representative via e-mail today. “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 ratings.”

When we had this question of Tesla, and relayed the specific wording of its press release, NHTSA had this statement in our inbox inside of three minutes.

That said, the Model S is indeed a well-engineered car. With no engine in the front to be pushed into occupants during a collision, its frontal impact tests have a distinct advantage. The car also broke the roof crushing machine, and side-impact tests have shown the car’s great structural integrity as well.

As for the NHTSA investigation into U.S. fires, there is no news on this yet to report, but Tesla noted it has been cleared by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA), which found perceived threats a non issue.

“It is worth noting that a Tesla vehicle is over five times less likely to experience a fire than the average gasoline car and that there have been zero serious injuries or deaths for any reason ever, fire or otherwise, in a Model S,” said Tesla today. “Over the course of more than 100 million miles driven in almost every possible terrain, weather and crash conditions, the Tesla Model S has consistently protected its driver and passengers, achieving the best safety track record of any car on the road.”