Tesla Model 3 finally earns brand's IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award

September 19, 2019

The Tesla Model 3 has earned a Top Safety Pick+ award in crash-test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

The Model 3 electric vehicle earned top “Good” ratings on all six crash tests, as well as a “Good” rating for its headlights from the nation's most rigorous crash-testing authority. It is the first TSP+ acknowledgment for Tesla after years of the American-made electric vehicle maker overstating its safety record. 

Last month, the NHTSA told Tesla to stop misleading advertising on the Model 3’s safety record in regard to NHTSA testing. Tesla said the five-star Model 3 had “the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by NHTSA.” NHTSA doesn’t rank cars, it only rates them on a five-star scale, so any five-star vehicle has the same safety ranking as any other five-star vehicle. 

Tesla also overstated the the ratings of the Model S in NHTSA testing back in 2013, famously—or infamously—claiming the Model S earned an impossible 5.4-star rating on the five-star scale. 

The IIHS, which is funded by auto insurers but operates as a nonprofit, found the Model S lacking.

In IIHS testing for 2017, the Model S luxury performance sedan had “Poor” headlights and only an “Acceptable” rating for the small front overlap test that simulates if the driver-side front corner of the car rams into a stationary object such as a parked car or tree. The Institute calls the small front overlap “its most challenging test,” which is one of the reasons it is more rigorous than NHTSA testing.

2019 Tesla Model 3 - IIHS small overlap frontal crash test

2019 Tesla Model 3 - IIHS small overlap frontal crash test

The Model 3 structure held up well in the driver-side small front overlap test. The IIHS found only a moderate risk of injury to the dummy’s lower leg in the high-speed crash test. The Model 3 compact sedan was also praised for its front crash prevention system for its ability to avoid collisions at 12 mph and 25 mph.  

The "Good" rating for the Model 3's base headlights was the final piece of the puzzle to earn the Top Safety Pick+ designation.

LED projector headlights are key to earning the coveted award, and can preclude a vehicle from earning the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards, such as the case with the Chevy Bolt EV. The Bolt “misses out because its headlights cause too much glare,” the IIHS explained in a statement.

The 2019 Audi e-tron five-seat crossover SUV also earned a Top Safety Pick+ with standard equipment, joining the Model 3 as the only electric vehicles to earn TSP+ honors. The limited-release Hyundai Nexo fuel cell vehicle also earned a TSP+ award.

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