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Tesla Fights Back by Defending Its Model 3 “Misleading” Claim

Tesla loves boasting about its safety ratings on the Model 3 with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it is easy to see why– they managed to score a 5-star safety rating across every category and sub-category recorded.  Talk about an impressive track record.  They have even gone as far as to say that the Model 3 has “the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested”.  But unfortunately, the NHTSA is a little displeased by statements Tesla has made about its safety rating, if their cease-and-desist letter is anything to go by.

Tesla Model 3 Safety Rating

Back in 2018, the NHTSA released their Tesla Model 3 crash results.  Tesla was quick to make a statement on the matter in a blog post in October of last year:

“Based on the advanced architecture of Model S and Model X, which were previously found by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to have the lowest and second-lowest probabilities of injury of all cars ever tested, we engineered Model 3 to be the safest car ever built. Now, not only has Model 3 achieved a perfect 5-star safety rating in every category and sub-category, but NHTSA’s tests also show that it has the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested.”

Bold words from a bold company. 


Well, the NHTSA was unimpressed by Tesla’s claims of the Model 3 having “the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by” the federal safety agency.  In fact, they were downright upset and quickly delivered a cease-and-desist letter straight to Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself. 

Apparently, the problem lay in the fact that the mass of a vehicle plays a role in passenger survivability, something that is not easily comparable between cars of different sizes.  The NHTSA believed that comparing overall safety scores between two vehicles with a difference of more than 250 pounds in weight was nothing short of inappropriate.  As they pointed out in their letter, if a Model 3 suffered a head-on collision with a significantly heavier SUV, the SUV would have a better shot at “survivability and injury avoidance” no matter how good the Model 3’s frontal crash rating might be. 

The NHTSA referred the matter to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, concerned that Tesla’s statements would “lead to consumer confusion and give Tesla an unfair market advantage”.  The alleged use of ‘misleading terminology’ could be cause for concern from the Bureau.  The NHTSA also issued subpoenas to Tesla in order to obtain information regarding several crashes.

Tesla, of course, maintained that they did nothing wrong.  Tesla’s deputy general counsel Al Prescott claimed that the company merely pulled publicly-available data from the NHTSA and presented it in an objective manner. 

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