Tesla Model S, BMW i3 fail to meet IIHS Top Safety Pick standards

February 1, 2017

The flashy Tesla Model S and BMW i3 may garner second looks from passers-by, but they're not as safe as many other cars on the road according to the IIHS.

The insurance industry-funded group revealed today that neither model qualifies for either the coveted Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards. In both cases, there's room for some improvement, the IIHS says. 

Here's a look at what the IIHS found and how it hopes the two models will improve going forward: 

Tesla Model S

Tesla's hatchback sedan received top marks in three of the IIHS' four instrumented crash tests—the moderate overlap front, side impact, and roof strength assessments. However, it came up a little short in the more demanding small overlap front  test, where it scored an "Acceptable" score that the IIHS says prohibits the electric sedan from qualifying as a Top Safety Pick.

Additionally, the IIHS found that the Model S' headlights aren't up to snuff, either. It scored both the standard LED and the optional adaptive LED headlights with its lowest "Poor" rating.

MORE: A roundup of all the 2017 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ award winners

The IIHS also says it was unable to test the Model S' automatic emergency braking system because Tesla hasn't activated its Autopilot system on all of its vehicles yet even though it's standard equipment.

Tesla Model S in IIHS testing

Tesla Model S in IIHS testing

According to the IIHS, Tesla has implemented a running change designed to improve the Model S' small overlap performance beginning with production on January 23. The IIHS says it will test the Model S again when it receives an updated car.

"We expect new tests to yield the highest possible rating," Tesla said in a statement it released to the media.

We've reached out to Tesla for more details on this fix and will update this space when we hear back. 

BMW i3

BMW's boxy all-electric i3 came in with a more impressive performance in the IIHS' laboratory by scoring the top "Good" rating for all four tests. However, the IIHS found that its seats and head restraints don't do as good of a job preventing injury from whiplash potentially incurred in a rear impact.

DON'T MISS: How to be sure your new car really is a Top Safety Pick+

The IIHS has so far only tested the i3 with its standard cloth upholstered, manually adjusted seats, which it rates as "Acceptable." The seats need to be considered "Good" to qualify for the Top Safety Pick or above status.

The IIHS was otherwise more complimentary of the i3, which it says has LED headlights that rank as "Acceptable" (enough to qualify for Top Safety Pick+) and an automatic emergency braking system rated as "Advanced."

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