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NHTSA won't stand by Tesla's "best car" claim [update]

by Ronan Glon

Is Musk over-interpreting the agency's crash data?

While Tesla and CEO Elon Musk are boldly claiming the Model 3 is one of the safest cars ever made, the U.S. federal regulator whose data they cite is making its own, more cautious stance perfectly clear.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), such determinations are not made by the agency and shouldn't necessarily be made by others.

California-based Tesla published a blog post on October 7 boasting the Model 3 "has the lowest probability of injury of all cars the [NHTSA] has ever tested." Tesla pointed out the Model 3 received a five-star rating in every category and further went on to allude to data relating to the likelihood of injuries in a collision.

The agency published a brief statement on October 9, throwing some water on those claims:

"A five-star rating is the highest safety rating a vehicle can achieve. NHTSA does not distinguish safety performance beyond that rating, thus there is no 'safest' vehicle among those vehicles achieving five-star ratings," it wrote.

The Model 3 is a safe car, make no mistake, but America's national safety regulator is not willing to say it's safer than other five-star cars currently in showrooms. It's consequently considered to be on par with the 2016 Volvo S60, the 2018 Ford Mustang, and the 2018 Subaru Impreza, among other models.

Tesla hasn't responded to the NHTSA's rebuttal.