Tesla CEO Elon Musk received a cease-and-desist letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over his claims that the Tesla Model 3 is the safest car in the world.
Business Insider reports that in October 2018, the NHTSA sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk over his claims that the Tesla Model 3 sedan is the safest car in the world. Transparency group PlainSite published the cease-and-desist letter this week along with other correspondence between Tesla and the NHTSA obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
According to the letter dated October 17, 2018, Tesla made “a number of misleading statements” about the safety of its Model 3 sedan. CEO Elon Musk also promoted these claims via social media. This claim was linked to the 5-star rating that the NHTSA gave the Model 3 in Septembers, but according to the agency, the high rating does not equate to a car being “safer” than other cars with a 5-star label. The complaint highlights a Tesla blog post from October 7 in which the firm states that the Model 3 “achieves the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by NHTSA.”
The NHTSA told Musk that this blog post along with his various other claims “misled customers.” At the time of the posting of the blog post, Musk shared a link to the post on his personal Twitter account and quoted Tesla saying: “There is no safer car in the world than a Tesla” and added himself: “The physics of how Tesla achieved best safety of any cars ever tested.”
The NHTSA issued a veiled response to Tesla which did not name the firm but stated that there was “no ‘safest’ vehicle among those vehicles achieving 5-star ratings.” In the published cache of correspondence between the NHTSA and Tesla, Tesla lawyer Al Prescott stated that “Tesla has provided consumers with fair and objective information.”
A lawyer for the NHTSA, Jonathan Morrison, stated that: “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.” When questioned by Business Insider, Tesla referred to a letter from October 31st to the NHTSA in which the company states:
Tesla’s blog statements are entirely based on actual test results and NHTSA’s own calculations for determining relative risk of injury and probability of injury. Based on this published data, the Model 3 Long Range RWD has achieved a Vehicle Safety Score of 0.38 that translates to an overall probability of injury of 5.7%. NHTSA has rated almost 1,000 vehicles since the current NCAP began with the 2011 model year. We have compared these results to every other public test report. No vehicle has ever achieve an overall lower score.
Based on the foregoing, we do not see a reason to discontinue use of our safety blog or these statements as long as no other vehicle surpasses the Model 3 Long Range RWD’s Vehicle Safety Score and overall probability of injury. While we do not expect NHTSA to take sides among manufacturers, we had hoped NHTSA would welcome such an achievement because it was presented in an objective manner using the agency’s own data. Model 3’s achievement is exactly what NHTSA intended with the NCAP — to encourage manufactures to continuously improve safety.