The Tesla Model S has failed to achieve the highest-possible Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, marking the second time the sedan has underperformed in the safety watchdog’s testing.
The IIHS previously tested the Model S for the 2016 model year and discovered the safety belt allowed the dummy’s torso to move too far forward and impact the steering wheel. Tesla made changes to the belt design for 2017, however, when the IIHS crash tested the Model S this time around, the result was the same.
The sedan also failed to completely protect its battery pack in the IIHS’ Small Overlap Front test. The first test resulted in a ‘Good’ rating, but the second saw the driver’s side wheel intrude into the instrument panel and damage the left front corner of the battery case. The deformation was limited to an area that didn’t contain battery cells, however, so its overall rating wasn’t affected.
The IIHS also said the Model S is “only available with headlights that earn a poor rating.” Furthermore, it noted the sedan is available with standard automatic emergency braking, crucial to the Top Safety Pick+ rating, but that Tesla had “only recently,” activated the software function.
In response to the test, Tesla released a statement saying the Model S “received the highest rating in IIHS’s crash testing in every category except for one, the small overlap front crash test, where it received the second highest rating available.” It also said the government-backed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides the “most objective and accurate independent testing of vehicle safety,” and it found the Model S and Model X “to be the two cars with the lowest probability of injury of any cars that it has ever tested, making them the safest cars in history.”
The Model S was tested as part of an IIHS study of large sedans. The institution named the 2017 Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Toyota Avalon a Top Safety Pick+ as part of their findings, while the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus joined the Model S in missing out on the distinction.
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