By on October 10, 2018

tesla model 3

Following the release of crash test results in 2013, Tesla claimed the Model S earned more than five stars on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s ranking scale. Nuh uh, said the NHTSA. There’s only five stars to hand out. No one gets more than that.

Fast-forward five years and the exact same thing is occurring, this time centered around the just-tested Model 3. That sedan, which still isn’t cheap, earned five stars in all NHTSA crash categories. Kudos to Tesla engineers. However, the NHTSA isn’t happy with Tesla’s weekend boast that suggested the Model 3 is the safest car ever tested by the federal agency.

In an October 7th blog post, Tesla claims crash data released by the NHTSA shows the sedan as having “the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested” — including its Model S and X. The automaker then goes on to detail the various structural attributes of its product.

After sitting out Columbus Day, the agency fired back with a release of its own. Essentially, the five-star rating is the final word on vehicle safety, the NHTSA said, meaning that several other vehicles, including the Toyota Camry and Ford Mustang, share the same top safety rating as the Model 3.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) … conducts a total of three crash tests on new vehicles: one frontal and two side crash tests, as well as a rollover resistance assessment – a driving maneuver test that assesses a vehicle’s susceptibility to tipping up and a measurement of how top-heavy a vehicle is,” the agency wrote.

“Results from these three crash tests and the rollover resistance assessments are weighted and combined into an overall safety rating. A 5-star rating is the highest safety rating a vehicle can achieve. NHTSA does not distinguish safety performance beyond that rating, thus there is no ‘safest’ vehicle among those vehicles achieving 5-star ratings.”

While the Model 3 data is there for anyone to pore over, the NHTSA has a rulebook for automakers who wish to use its ratings for the purposes of PR. Because of this, even though Tesla is on solid ground with its claim of low injury probability, it’s still stepping out of bounds with regard to the NHTSA. There’s the possibility of consequences.

Thus far, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has not responded to the NHTSA’s statement. Perhaps he’s thinking up some cool acronyms.

[Source: Bloomberg] [Image: Tesla]

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20 Comments on “Deja Vu: Tesla Gets Into It With the NHTSA – Once Again – After Crash Test Boast...”

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “NHTSA does not distinguish safety performance beyond that rating”

    They should. The star rating system is vague at best.

    “” This video clearly distinguishes between the 5-star Volvo S60 and the 5-star Model 3.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s because crash testing isn’t a 100% exact science. Selecting the kinds of crash tests to conduct isn’t an exact science. How well crash test results equate to real world safety is far from 100%.

      And also everyone has agreed to the rules, they are the same for everyone. You think Tesla isn’t right now or in the future slightly behind others in some testing and wouldn’t object to others making wild statements in their marketing based on that?

    • 0 avatar

      @SCE, they are not going to change it.

      Have you lobbied for this change prior to Tesla’s desire to bring EVs to the masses with the Model 3? I still have no idea when the $35k models will be shipping, do you? Not every new car buyer can justify a $55k version, of which Tesla seems to have plenty on hand to sell.

      I don’t know if you’ve read any of my other posts, but I found where the Tesla dealer 4 miles away from me has been parking vehicles. in the last 3 weeks the number has tripled, and it’s just not Model 3, it’s X and S models. Dare I say they are doing a bit of window-dressing for “in transit” cars for the Q3 earnings call?

  • avatar

    Teslas have excellent crash records, because they take forever to charge, and so there’s little time left for them to spend in traffic, where crashes tend to occur.

    • 0 avatar

      I have over 70k miles on my EV. Probably because I don’t have to waste my time in a gas station fueling my car. Let’s see, driving a quarter mile out of my way to the gas station, then waiting to traffic to clear so I can make a left. That’s five minutes. Okay, the car in front of me finishes pumping, now – oh crap, he’s going in to pay cash and it looks like lottery tickets. That’s another five minutes. Okay, he’s back, but he can’t go because he’s blocked. Another 2 minutes. Finally, both pumps in my lane are free. I pull up, get out, swipe my card. Damn, it’s not reading it. I try again. Nope. Have to go in and pay. Just one person in line. They’re carefully picking out each of about 10 lottery tickets. Oh, that’s a pretty one. It’s how much? Never mind, give me that one. Starts scratching one of the tickets and wins a free ticket. Sends the clerk after another one. Pays for tickets and finally leaves. Pay for the gas, go to the pump, and start pumping. The pump clicks off at full pressure. Damn, now squeeze a little less hard and it’s going in… click. Damn, now start again. Finally done. Get in car and leave. Traffic blocking exit because of backup from the rotary. Finally clears. On my way, but traffic is heavier on the freeway. Another 5 minutes in delay because of heavier traffic.

      • 0 avatar

        Except all the time you’ve saved buying your EV, you just wasted conjuring up this silly scenario that has never happened.

      • 0 avatar

        You should see the lines going to the local Costco* station. OMG! It looks like a motorized octopus. Just to save X cents/gallon these people are willing to wait, easy guess, 30-45 minutes. My time is easily worth much more than X cents/gallon savings.

        *The city (it could be Costco, who knows) is spending X dollars to widen this particular street to minimize the traffic jam this single damn gas station causes.

      • 0 avatar

        How long does it take to recharge when you are on a road trip?

  • avatar

    Asdf: And yet, doggone it, more people are purchasing these EVs – much to the consternation of those who feel somehow threatened.
    Tesla/Musk, however, need to chill on the over-the-top tweets and claims; they’re only hurting themselves.

    • 0 avatar

      Much to the consternation of regular tax payers, whose tax dollars are abused to sponsor those morons who are tricked into buying these crappy, inherently defective EVs, and much to the detriment of the car industry itself, which is tricked into pursuing a technology (BEV) that has proven not to be technologically and commercially viable – exhibit A being Tesla itself, which incredibly enough still hasn’t managed such a basic task as making a BEV that can be charged in 5 minutes – the incompetence is staggering, but alas, is not confined to Tesla.

      • 0 avatar

        See Brandolini’s law (a.k.a. the Bull$hit Asymmetry Principle):

        “The amount of energy needed to refute bull$hit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

        As a courtesy, when commenting unsubstantiated nonsense, please be sure to turn on all caps so people can more easily identify the content without having to read it.

      • 0 avatar

        As someone else pointed out recently, it takes only 5 seconds to plug in and 5 seconds to unplug his bev. And he never has to take the time to drive out of his way to get to a gas station.

        • 0 avatar

          It takes approximately as much time to plug in and unplug a BEV charger as it takes to insert and remove a fuel nozzle. It is the time in between that matters, and that’s where the BEV loses big time. Obviously, there are people who try to trivialize this fact with various kinds of dishonest rhetoric, but the truth is nevertheless that the time a BEV spends to recharge is “an order of magnitude” greater than the time it takes to refill a fuel tank. This lack of technological progress is completely unacceptable.

          • 0 avatar

            “It takes approximately as much time to plug in and unplug a BEV charger as it takes to insert and remove a fuel nozzle.”

            That’s not true. First, you have to get to the gas station, then wait for your turn at a pump. Next, you have to pay for it. Then you can put the nozzle in the filler hole.

            I could get an inductive charging system and totally eliminate the seconds it takes to plug in.

            The beauty of EV charging is that you don’t have to stand next to the pump squeezing electrons into the tank. You can do other things like grocery shopping or catch up on email.

          • 0 avatar
            Master Baiter

            Every EV buyer is aware of the recharge time.

            Just like the buyer of an MX-5 Miata is aware that it can’t tow 10K pounds.

          • 0 avatar

            “The beauty of EV charging is that you don’t have to stand next to the pump squeezing electrons into the tank. You can do other things like grocery shopping or catch up on email.”

            This must be why, on a recent road trip, when we stopped at at Dunkin Donuts to relieve ourselves and pick up fresh coffee, we saw a charging station in the parking lot with 2 Teslas plugged in. And 2 guys in the store, doing not much of anything, who were there when we arrived and still there (doing not much of anything)when we left a couple of minutes later.

            We did stop at the gas station across the street to refill, which took all of maybe 2 minutes. The Teslas were still there when we got back on the road.


      • 0 avatar

        If you didn’t pay a toll the second you left your driveway this morning, you’re the beneficiary of a government transportation subsidy for a product that is not commercially viable (local roads). There is no inherent problem with government subsidies, so long as they’re put to use for something that is beneficial for the public at large. Pushing cleaner technologies seems to fall squarely into that category, even if they’re not ready for adoption by the entire vehicle-driving public today. Most technology we rely on now started with some kind of government funding or applications (military, space, etc.).

  • avatar

    Totally off topic, but isn’t charge time a matter of physics at this point is battery development? I know of no battery that can take on a complete charge in 5 minutes.

    • 0 avatar

      yes. the initial charge (up to ~75-80%) can be done at constant current, relatively quickly. the last 20% or so has to be done at constant voltage, which is a lot slower. otherwise you risk lithium plating on the anode which permanently degrades the cells.

      Asdf’s dumb rants are mostly because he refuses to accept any other behavior than “re-fueling my car is something I have to go somewhere to do.” When- if you have an EV- you likely plug in at home and wake up to a “full tank” every morning.

      but any time the topic of EVs comes up, there are always people who act like everyone is a cross-country furniture delivery person who has to drive 800 miles every day.

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