Feds told Tesla to stop making "misleading statements" on Model 3 safety

  • Feds told Tesla to stop making

Feds told Tesla to stop making "misleading statements" on Model 3 safety

But documents recently obtained by the website Plainsite using a freedom-of-information request show that the NHTSA's private communications with Tesla weren't so diplomatic.

"It is therefore inaccurate to claim that the Model 3 has "the lowest probability of injury of all cars" or that Model 3 occupants are "less likely to get seriously hurt" or 'have the best chance of avoiding a serious injury, ' wrote NHTSA chief counsel Jonathan Morrison, adding that such statement violate NHTSA's guidelines".

An Oct. 17, 2018 letter shows the NHTSA also accused Tesla of previously failing to conform to the agency's guidelines and that it was referring the matter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether the statements constitute unfair or deceptive acts on practices.

Tesla, led by billionaire Elon Musk, has said the Model 3 "was engineered to be the safest auto ever built" with the lowest probability of injury of all vehicles ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The former head of the New York Stock Exchange took direct aim at Tesla on Wednesday, warning that "false and misleading claims" by the automaker can make it hard to determine what to believe.

It wasn't the first time Tesla had quarreled with the NHTSA over this issue.

The Model 3 had received the top rating on the agency's 5-Star Safety Ratings Program that uses three crash tests and a rollover resistance assessment. The NHTSA subsequently revised its advertising guidelines to prohibit companies from playing with the data like that in the future. Tesla previously chose to stop participating in a government probe of a fatal crash involving one of its vehicles operating in Autopilot mode because of a dispute over the process. Instead, Tesla dug into the NHTSA's data and spotted an opportunity to further toot its own horn. The agency then awards each vehicle a star rating based on VSS ranges.

Essentially, it's one thing for Tesla to boast that the Model 3 offers drivers a low risk of injury, but it's misleading to boast that the Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury across all tested cars. The NHTSA's tests, which involve crashing a vehicle into fixed objects, don't necessarily account for this difference.

"A number of NHTSA studies have evaluated the impact of vehicle mass on fatality rates, and these potential safety differences are not reflected in a vehicle's frontal crash test results", the agency wrote in October.

The agency said that the company was playing with the math and that it does not issue scores higher than five stars - "period".

Tesla's legal counsel responded saying that the statements were true and accurate.

Contacted by email, a Tesla spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter further, saying the company stood by the statements it made last October.