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Not so fast Tesla, NHTSA clarifies Model S crash test results

Earlier this week, The Tesla Model S added another superlative to its collection by acing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) battery of crash tests. However, Tesla may have been a little too exuberant with its claims of success.

The NHTSA has issued a clarification regarding Tesla’s claim that the Model S scored the equivalent of 5.4 out of 5 in the crash tests.

In a paragraph-long statement, the NHTSA said that it only awards points on a scale of 1 to 5, and that a score higher than 5 is not possible.

“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,” the statement said.

The guidelines encourage carmakers to use specific phrases, such as “five-star” or “highest Government rating” to describe their crash test results. The NHTSA specifically discourages carmakers from using any language that might make consumers think a vehicle scored higher than a 5, including references to “double five-star” ratings for cars that received five stars in multiple tests.

In its original press release, Tesla said scores higher than 5 are recorded in the overall Vehicle Safety Score provided to manufacturers.

Tesla also said that the Model S broke the machine used in the NHTSA’s roof crush test, and that testers could not get the car to roll over. Neither point was referenced in the NHTSA statement.

Regardless of how the scoring works, the NHTSA crash tests have shown that the Model S is an incredibly safe car. It still scored a perfect 5 out of 5 on every test, which is literally as good as it gets.

Because it doesn’t have an engine, the Model S has a large front impact zone, while at the rear a double bumper provides extra protection. The Model S was also the only car to receive a “good” rating in the side pole intrusion test.

So while the Model S is an incredibly safe car, Tesla needs to be 0.4 points less boastful about it.

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