By on January 29, 2008

crash1_3.jpgAs Darryl Siry promised, the Tesla Roadster will meet all federal safety standards. Well, all but the advanced air bag rule, that is. Yesterday, Tesla received a pass from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tesla will not have to equip its Roadster with air bags that deploy with varying force depending on the weight of the passenger and force of the impact. That's not such a big thing– the Lotus Elise (upon which the Tesla Roadster is based) receives the same exemption. But the NHTSA's rationale is unprecedented: "public interest is served by encouraging the development of fuel-efficient and alternative-fueled vehicles." The AP reports that NHTSA was worried that the advanced airbag rule would bankrupt Tesla– given the erstwhile automaker's $43m operating losses from 2003 – '06. Tesla would have to "cancel its pending development of an electric-powered sedan, and would ultimately have to terminate its operations." So if GM can't meet some requirement with the Volt without spending tons of money, do they get to slide? Oh and "based on information provided by the automaker, NHTSA estimates the waiver will cover 3,825 Roadsters, including 625 vehicles this year and 1,600 in each of the following two years." Last we heard, Telsa was talking about building one car a week. 

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18 Comments on “Tesla Birth Watch 30: NHTSA Saves Tesla from Bankruptcy...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    Remember, it’s for the children, unless they happen to be passengers in a Tesla. Maybe all the car companies should get safety or pollution wavers from our loving government to develop new technologies, then we can see how regulations hurt development of new technologies.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    So if it disengrates on impact with an 18wheeler, killing everyone with in a ten mile radius, while all the while clubbing baby seals, its ok because it is a new form of alternative fuel? Gotcha.

  • avatar
    nonce

    It’s quite reasonable, from a policy persepective, to grant a waiver when there are only a small number of cars in production.

    It lets small companies get off the ground. And when the market is so small you can say that the buyers understand the risk they are taking.

  • avatar
    Alex Rodriguez

    Tesla had better hope no one dies driving their roadster, because they have opened themselves up to huge liability. The govt will not step in and save them when this decision comes back to bite them.

  • avatar

    As you say yourself, this is not such a big thing. This waiver is in place to allow smaller companies to compete (not just EV companies). GM doesn’t need to develop this for the Volt because they already developed it for every car they make and just need to install it in the Volt. I think you knew that but it makes for good copy.

    Speaking of good copy – TTAC keeps referring to Tesla as the “erstwhile automaker.” What the heck does that mean?

    http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/erstwhile

  • avatar

    So it seems there will be an airbag..just that its the blow your face off kind. Ah…memories of my 94 626.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Siry:

    Erstwhile means past or previous according to my Webster’s Dictionary, and would seem to be incorrectly used in this instance as you would need to actually have produced cars in the past in order to be an “erstwhile automaker.”

  • avatar
    nonce

    Perhaps he means “ersatz automaker”?

  • avatar
    kansei

    Kurt B – it’ll still be a dual-stage airbag, not a punch you in the face and give you a black-eye airbag.

    It’s just that airbags now won’t deploy the passenger side if there’s no passenger, or won’t go full force if it’s a very lightweight passenger.

    But don’t any 2-seat cars legally have to have the key-operated passenger airbag shutoff switch? Basically because in a 2-seater you might need to have a child seat mounted and the airbag would be a little unwanted then.

    I don’t see how this is an issue, because you can turn off the passenger airbag just like in any other 2-seater.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    I wouldn’t worry much about this exemption’s impact.
    No one will ever die driving a Tesla roadster, since it seems increasingly obvious no will ever be DRIVING a Tesla roadster.

  • avatar

    I think there should be a crash protection standard without a mandate for the particular technology used to achieve it. That would allow, say, racing style seatbelts in lieu of airbags. Probably a lot cheaper.

    I hope the car makes it to production. I’ve ridden in it, and it’s very impressive. Good article on it in the March C/D. Csaba Csere drove it.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    Big deal, half of the vehicles sold today (ie. trucks and SUV’s) live in the mother of all legislative get-out clauses where they don’t have to conform with the same crash, rollover and mileage standards as the other cars.

    But when you crash a Tesla, it’s only you and your passenger likely to die (at least you’re certain not to be far from home), a Suburban with sloppy brakes could take out two or three whole families in one cell phone distracted incident.

  • avatar
    bleach

    I don’t think Frank is pointing out some safety deficiency for Tesla so much as the NHTSA’s unusual and unnecessary explanation for a commonplace waiver. Even the NHTSA is trying to score green.

  • avatar
    Drew

    I don’t see this as being that big of a deal, and I don’t understand why TTAC does.

    After all, the Ferrari F430 that just received a rave review is also exempt from the same rule:

    http://www.leftlanenews.com/relief-ferrari-430-gets-airbag-exemption.html

    I understand being skeptical of Tesla, but TTAC is edging toward being biased. Especially now that car mags and even other blogs have posted first drives/reviews of the Tesla.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    Surprised?

    The mainstream media has already given the Tesla an exemption from building the car.

  • avatar

    Drew
    I don’t see this as being that big of a deal, and I don’t understand why TTAC does.

    After all, the Ferrari F430 that just received a rave review is also exempt from the same rule.

    And as I pointed out, so does the Elise. The exemption itself isn’t the problem. It’s the NHTSA’s rationale for giving it: “public interest is served by encouraging the development of fuel-efficient and alternative-fueled vehicles.” If that’s the case, they’d better get out their rubber stamp because any diesel or hybrid would fit those same parameters and their manufacturers should be given the same latitude.

  • avatar
    Drew

    Fair enough, Frank. If I had read your post more slowly I probably would have gleaned that for myself.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I never thought about that. I guess the Ariel Atom must have some sort of exemption since it certainly doesn’t have air bags. Of course, it does have a fire supression system. Coooolll.


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