Published: Fri, August 09, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Tesla Under U.S. Scrutiny Over Safety Claims

Tesla Under U.S. Scrutiny Over Safety Claims

Elon Musk's boasts about the safety of Tesla's vehicles earned him a slap on the wrist from USA regulators a year ago, newly released documents show. Addressed to Elon Musk, the letter claimed Tesla had "issued a number of misleading statements regarding the recent Government Five-Star Ratings of the Tesla Model 3".

Tesla's Deputy General Counsel, Al Prescott, disagreed with the NHTSA's position of the statement being misleading and provided clarification that the automaker was referring to the vehicle safety score of 0.38, a score which the Model 3 achieved and is, in fact, the lowest overall score of any vehicle tested by the NHTSA since the NCAP began in 2011.

"This is not the first time that Tesla has disregarded the guidelines in a manner that may lead to consumer confusion and give Tesla an unfair market advantage", Bloomberg quoted NHTSA Chief Counsel Jonathan Morrison as saying in an October 17 letter addressed to Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk. That, in Tesla's view, means that a Model 3 driver is less likely to be injured in a crash than a driver of any other vehicle.

Tesla has for years boasted about the ideal 5-star safety ratings its cars have received from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The FTC declined to comment, with a spokesman saying that "investigations are non-public, and we don't comment on ... the existence of an investigation".

Tesla commented on the NHTSA's interest in Autopilot stating that such interest from a regulating body is normal: "Any regulator like NHTSA would be interested in new vehicle technologies and how they make our highways safer", Tesla said in a statement to Bloomberg.


However, documents obtained by PlainSite via requests under freedom of information laws showed that NHTSA issued a cease and desist order to Tesla. There's no disputing that the Model 3 performed well on these tests, achieving five stars-the agency's highest rating-across the board.

Tesla has stood by its statements, arguing that it's merely relying on statistics calculated by the NHTSA itself. The NHTSA sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tesla on October 17, for making "misleading statements" over safety ratings of the Model 3.

The NHTSA would have liked Tesla to stop there. But the company has also been emphasizing its vehicles' top ratings in terms of safety given to them by official traffic authorities.

Tesla didn't back down in its public statements last October.

"A very small percentage of owners of older Model S and Model X vehicles may have noticed a small reduction in range when charging to a maximum state of charge following a software update created to improve battery longevity", the company said in response to the allegations, as quoted by Reuters.

Representatives for Tesla didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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