Multiple reports have recently emerged about the US National Highway Traffic Administration scrutinizing Tesla and the company’s claims that the Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury among vehicles tested by the agency. It should be noted that the NHTSA’s scrutiny, which involved a cease-and-desist letter to Tesla and a prompt response from the automaker, transpired last October, following the agency’s release of the Model 3’s 5-Star Safety Rating.
The NHTSA’s reaction to Tesla recently came to fore due to documents shared by staunch TSLA critic and transparency group Plainsite, which was able to access both the NHTSA’s cease-and-desist letter to Tesla as well as the electric car maker’s response to the agency thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request. What’s quite peculiar about the new string of reports, including those from Bloomberg and Reuters, is that they highlight the NHTSA’s allegations about the company’s alleged misleading claims about the Model 3, but not Tesla’s response arguing that it used the agency’s own data to arrive at its conclusions.
To get an accurate picture of this story, one must look at the full cease-and-desist letter sent by the NHTSA to Tesla, as well as the entire contents of the electric car maker’s response. A copy of each letter will be embedded in this article, to provide a full account of the two parties’ correspondence.
Following Tesla’s release of its blog post stating that the Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury among the vehicles tested by the NHTSA, the agency sent the Silicon Valley-based company a cease-and-desist letter. Addressed to Elon Musk, the letter claimed that Tesla had “issued a number of misleading statements regarding the recent Government 5-Star Ratings of the Tesla Model 3.” NHTSA Chief Counsel Jonathan Morrison, who sent the letter, further argued that statements such as “lowest probability of injury in all cars” are inaccurate and not in the best interests of consumers.
The NHSTA’s cease-and-desist letter to Tesla could be accessed below.
Tesla disagreed with the NHTSA’s allegations in its response to the cease-and-desist letter. The electric car maker argued that its statements about the Model 3’s safety were neither untrue nor misleading, especially since the company used the NHTSA’s own data (which could be accessed here) when it stated that the electric sedan, as well as its largest siblings, the Model S and Model X, have the lowest probability of injury among vehicles tested by the agency. Tesla also noted that the Model 3’s achievement is “exactly what NHTSA intended with the NCAP — to encourage manufacturers to continuously immprove safety.” With this in mind, Tesla noted that there was no reason to discontinue its blog post highlighting the Model 3’s safety.
Tesla’s full response to the NHTSA could be read below.
It should be noted that the NHTSA has not doubled down on its allgetations against Tesla’s statements about the Model 3. The electric car maker’s blog post explaining the Model 3’s stellar safety scores is still active today. Contrary to Plainsite’s statements that Tesla was “referred to the FTC for repeatedly lying about the safety of their vehicles,” it appears that the NHTSA opted to back down from its allegations once the electric car maker explained the rationale behind its statements about the Model 3.
The Model 3 has since gained perfect 5-Star Safety Ratings from the Euro-NCAP and the ANCAP, with both safety agencies lauding the vehicle for being one of the safest cars on the road. Following the vehicle’s crash tests, Matthew Avery, head of research at Thatcham Research, which conducts the crash tests with the Euro NCAP, noted that “Tesla has done a great job of playing the structural benefits of an electric vehicle to its advantage. The Tesla Model 3 achieved one of the highest Safety Assist scores we have seen to date.” These sentiments were echoed by ANCAP Chief Executive Officer James Goodwin, who noted that it was “great to see electric vehicles continuing to prioritize safety. It is encouraging to see Tesla give equal attention to the active safety systems and technologies on board as well as the safety fundamentals through the structure and restraints.”
H/T to Vladimir Grinshpun.