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News: Tesla Model S ekes out 5-star rating from Euro NCAP, but is inferior to its competitors.

Posted on November 7, 2014

Tesla CEO Elon Musk often likes to boast about the safety of Tesla’s Model S, once tweeting that Tesla’s Model S received the “best safety rating of any car ever tested.” And the Model S certainly did very well in the NHTSA’s tests. Alas for Tesla, not all crash tests are created equal. In its most recent performance in the European NCAP’s crash tests, the Tesla Model S fared somewhat worse than did the competing Audi A6, BMW 5-series, Infiniti Q50, Maserati Ghibli and Mercedes-Benz E-class.

To illustrate, the Model S received a score of 82% in the “Adult Occupant” portion of Euro NCAP’s assessment, whereas the aforementioned A6, 5-series, Q50, Ghibli and E-class received scores of 91%, 95%, 86%, 95% and 86%, respectively. In fact, the Tesla’s 82% score just squeaks past the 80% threshold necessary to obtain a 5-star rating. This did not stop Tesla for issuing a press release touting the Model S’ performance in the test and its safety. Click here here to see how the Model S compares to its rivals in other categories (“Child Occupant”, “Pedestrian” and “Safety Assist”) of the Euro NCAP assessment.

The United States government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) runs a new car assessment program that includes a full-frontal impact test, side impact test and pole test. Euro NCAP, in turn, is a car safety performance assessment program backed by several European governments and the European Union. It is the European equivalent of the US’ NHTSA testing program. Euro NCAP’s testing protocol is in several respects more rigorous than that of the NHTSA, and, as an example, incorporates an offset frontal crash test (which NHTSA does not) which places much greater demands on a vehicle’s structure. Coincidentally, the test results that Musk and Tesla often highlight are those obtained by the NHTSA.

We would further like to note that the Tesla Model S has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS, a non-profit US organization, conducts a rigorous testing regime and includes an offset frontal crash test similar to that of Euro NCAP, as well as the very difficult small offset frontal crash test. Several of the Model S’ competitors have been subjected to this test, and only the Mercedes-Benz E-class managed to score a “Good” rating. We would be very interested in seeing how the Tesla Model S would fare in such a test and suggest that Tesla donate a couple to the IIHS for assessment. Perhaps then then can justify their CEO’s boasts.

In conclusion, while we think the Model S is a safe vehicle, we would like our readers to know that they should take Musk’s and Tesla’s hyperbole with a grain of salt. The Tesla Model S has some compelling features, but from a safety perspective, it appears that you can do just as well, if not better, with some of Tesla’s competitors.

Tesla Model S in Euro NCAP crash test.

Tesla Model S in Euro NCAP crash test.

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