Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors and company CEO Elon Musk ran into some controversy last week regarding the sky-high government safety ratings of the company’s Model S sedan. According to the USA Today, a series of boastful claims from Tesla and Musk himself have caused both the government and other players in the car safety world to lash out at the high-tech electric car company.
After receiving a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Elon Musk, Tesla’s visionary CEO, tweeted that the Model S had achieved “the best safety rating of any car ever tested” by the United States government.
The tweet, which hit the web last Monday, accompanied an official press release from Tesla Motors which claimed the Model S had somehow received a combined score of 5.4 stars – a number that is understandably higher than all other similar car models. According to the press release, the Model S “set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants.” Little explanation was offered as to where the 5.4 rating came from.
Naturally, the government wasn’t exactly happy about Tesla’s misleading claims. The NHTSA quickly fired back to clarify things, arguing that a rating of 5.4 doesn’t even exist on the five-star rating scale, and that any superlatives in the “best” or “safest” variety were of Tesla’s own invention. The government statement didn’t specifically mention Tesla or the Model S, but there was little question as to who the statement was directed toward.
“The NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond five stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories,” the statement said.
Others were also not pleased with Tesla’s seemingly sloppy reporting. Jim Hall, a director of a Birmingham-based analytics firm, told USA Today that thought it was fairly clear that a five star rating system could not allow for a rating that exceeds five stars, and believed that someone at Tesla should have killed the boastful press release before it landed in a thousand email inboxes.
Still, despite the controversy, and while Elon Musk may have gone a little overboard in his claims, the Tesla Model S sedan is almost certainly one of the safest cars on the road right now. One of Musk’s favorite anecdotes to tell about the car refers back to a roof crush protection test. According to the CEO, the goal of the test is to crush the car using a machine that puts pressure on the roof. This test checks the strength of the car’s frame, among other safety-oriented benchmarks. However, when the Model S came up against the roof crushing apparatus, it fought back.
“When we did the roof crush test, it got to four times the weight of the car and then the machine broke,” Musk said in an interview with CBS. “So literally, the thing that is supposed to crush the car broke instead of the car.”