— Is the Tesla electric car the safest car ever made? Tesla says so, and made that clear when they announced their Model S electric car achieved the best safety rating of any car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Tesla said that claim could be backed up because the Model S received an overall "Vehicle Safety Score" of 5.4 stars. However, Tesla also says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "does not publish a star rating above 5."
So how do you boast about a rating of 5.4 and then admit the highest possible rating is only 5? Very careful wording.
Even though Tesla admitted a rating above 5 stars doesn't exist, they did some "fancy" math about certain aspects of testing and came up with something that would sound good in the press.
Apparently the press bought it because media outlets across the U.S. started repeating the safety claims made by Tesla.
Enter the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who performed the original testing on the Model S.
NHTSA did something they typically don't do: They published a press release reminding automakers and advertising agencies to be careful of how safety claims are worded.
Tesla wasn't mentioned by name, but did they need to be?
And now a word from the U.S. government about making car safety claims:
" NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories. In addition, the agency has guidelines in place for manufacturers and advertising agencies to follow to ensure that accurate and consistent information is conveyed to the public."
Maybe those safety claims worked in the press. According to Forbes, "Tesla’s stock hit another all-time high on Monday at $172.75."