Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S.

A controversy has erupted between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Tesla Motors over the high crash test safety rating that the agency gave Tesla’s Model S car. Tesla Motors is touting what it is calling NHTSA’s highest overall vehicle safety rating ever, a new combined rating of 5.4 stars, reports iStockAnalyst.

NHTSA assigns cars stars based on their performance in crash tests, with 5 stars being given to those cars that are the safest. “Tesla Model S got a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception,” writes iStockAnalyst, noting that according to Tesla, only about 1% of all cars tested by NHTSA achieve 5 stars in all crash test categories.

iStockAnalyst writes:

NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5; however, safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new, combined record of 5.4 stars. This score takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.

But NHTSA says that while the Model S is top-rated for safety, it is not the highest-rated car ever, Jon M. Chang writes for ABC News in his article “Agency Pushes Back on Tesla 5.4 Star Safety Rating Claim.” Chang goes on to write:

‘The agency’s 5-Star Safety Ratings program is designed to provide consumers with information about the crash protection,’ NHTSA said in a statement. ‘NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star ratings.’ NHTSA also released several videos of the Tesla Model S crash tests.

Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center of Auto Safety, told ABC News: “No matter what, you can’t say it’s the safest car ever tested, just that it had the best overall test score of any vehicle tested by NHTSA.”

Because the Model S is an electric car with no big gasoline engine under the hood, it has a much longer “crumple zone” to absorb high speed impact in a head-on crash, writes SustainableBusiness.com. Its motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted near the rear axel. In designing the sides of the car, Tesla engineers used techniques like those in the Apollo Lunar Lander, “nestling multiple deep aluminum extrusions into the side rails of the car,” writes CarBuzz.

At the rear of the car, Tesla installed a double bumper, and the high safety score on the roll test was attributed to the mounting of the battery pack below the floor pan, CarBuzz writes, which provides a very low center of gravity, and thus stability and safety. Tesla engineers kept testing the Model S in-house and tweaking the design until all aspects could garner 5-star ratings, CarBuzz writes.

The 5-star crash test rating is only one of the accolades the Tesla Model S has gotten. Consumer Reports gave it their highest rating for a luxury sedan, 99 out of 100 points, and it won Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year Award, SustainableBusiness.com writes. The base price of Tesla’s Model S is $62,400, including the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit; and the current time between ordering one and having it delivered ranges from two to three months, Tesla says.

Whether or not the Model S is the safest car ever tested in NHTSA’s crash tests, CarBuzz writes:

This car is seriously safe. We guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, the cars contain Aerospace grade parts. After all, we are talking about a company who is simultaneously trying to build spaceships.

Tesla’s CEO and Product Architect is Elon Musk (the co-founder of PayPal), who is also CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Techologies (Space X), and the principal shareholder and non-executive chairman of SolarCity, the leading provider of solar power systems in the U.S. Musk recently announced his idea for the Hyperloop, a solar-powered super-fast elevated transit system that could transport people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a half hour, as Ashlee Vance writes for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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