Tesla Model S Falls Short of IIHS Top Safety Pick Rating

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad
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tesla model s falls short of iihs top safety pick rating

The IIHS conducted crash tests using the latest EV and plug-in hybrid vehicles with the coveted Top Safety Pick rating still eluding the Tesla Model S.

Back in 2011 the electric sedan bested NHTSA’s crash score, earning a perfect 5 stars. In 2013 Tesla boasted that it had the best crash test ratings ever for a new car on the new scale. But the IIHS performs very different kinds of tests and awards ratings on more than just crash safety.

In the IIHS results, the 2017 Model S scored “Good” (the top of four ratings) in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint and seats tests. Where the sedan stumbled was in small overlap front crash test, where it earns an acceptable rating.

A major point of concern for the Model S is with its safety belts, which according to the IIHS, allowed the crash dummy to move too far forward, hitting its head on the steering wheel through the airbags. The IIHS notes that “that injuries to the head, along with the lower right leg, would be possible in a real-world crash of the same severity.”

The range topping P100D variant of the Model S was also only rated as acceptable in roof strength tests. Because the rating is based on a strength-to-weight ratio, and the P100D is heavier due to a larger battery, it earned an acceptable rating.

There’s more to an IIHS safety rating than just crash tests. The Model S wasn’t able to participate in the crash prevention tests, because Tesla has disabled these features on new cars. These features are essential in awarding a car the Top Safety Pick + rating. The IIHS also criticized the headlights of the EV.

As a result the Model S can’t tout the coveted Top Safety Pick, or Top Safety Pick + Rating. Other vehicles tested by the IIHS in this round include the BMW i3 and Toyota Prius Prime. The Prius Prime earned the institutes top award, while the BMW i3 came up lacking in head restraint and seat evaluations.

“There’s no reason the most efficient vehicles can’t also be among the safest,” says IIHS executive vice president David Zuby. “We hope Tesla and BMW will continue to refine the designs of their electric models to maximize driver protection and, especially in the case of Tesla, improve their headlights.”

The Chevrolet Volt was noted for having a Top Safety Pick + rating already, and the IIHS plans to test the new Chevy Bolt EV later this year.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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Join the conversation
  • Alex Kozovski Alex Kozovski on Feb 01, 2017

    I remember when Tesla was cool

  • Ziv Bnd Ziv Bnd on Feb 01, 2017

    Tesla is learning that building excellent cars is da**** difficult. They sold nearly 10,000 in the US in December alone, but they still have a ways to go on fit and finish, and safety apparently. I love the S, but my Volt will have to do for the next couple years. Speaking of the Volt, now THAT is a car built for safety! There was an accident in which a young man driving a BMW M2 T-boned a Volt at 70 mph and killed 3 passenger. But other than that, there hasn't been any other traffic fatalities in a Volt in over 6 years. One fatal accident in 6+ years. That is impressive.