The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has warned Tesla about making 'misleading' safety claims about its cars.
UPDATE, 09/08/2019: Tesla has issued a statement regarding the NHTSA's cease-and-desist. It's been added to our story.
Tesla claimed the Model 3's crash test results gave it the "lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by the NHTSA" after the body, which is responsible for enforcing safety standards in the USA, tested the car in October.
Shortly after Tesla started making its claim, the NHTSA publicly responded by saying it "does not distinguish safety performance beyond [safety] rating, thus there is no "safest" vehicle among those vehicles achieving 5-star ratings".
Documents obtained by Plainsite using a freedom-of-information request reveal the body was far stronger in its messaging behind the scenes.
"Your company has issued a number of misleading statements" the NHTSA wrote to Elon Musk. The body also called out some of Tesla's past messaging, referencing times "your company has previously failed to conform to these guidelines".
The blog post, according to the NHTSA, “could be interpreted as misunderstanding safety data, an intention to mislead the public, or both".
When the Model S was tested, Tesla claimed it scored 5.4 stars in NHTSA testing, despite the maximum score being five stars.
Tesla denied the accusations about the Model 3's score, claiming it "provided consumers with fair and objective information to compare the relative safety of vehicles having 5-star overall ratings".
The company today issued the following statement:
“As expected, any regulator like NHTSA would be interested in new vehicle technologies and how they make our highways safer. Tesla is at the forefront of safety, and we share information with NHTSA on a regular basis, including Autopilot safety performance, which we also report publicly on our website.
"The documents and subpoenas referenced are business as usual and reflect an open and collaborative relationship between Tesla and NHTSA. We routinely share information with the agency while also balancing the need to protect customer privacy. Tesla has required subpoenas when customer information is requested in order to protect the privacy of our customers.”
The Model 3 scored five stars in ANCAP testing, with a 94 per cent score in the safety assist category equalling the firm's best-ever.