In a recent round of crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Tesla Model S finds itself at the bottom of the list.
Back in February, IIHS tested a number of green vehicles and found that the Tesla Model S didn’t live up to its high reputation for safety. The Model S failed to meet the bar for the highest ratings in three areas; Active safety, specifically automatic emergency braking, headlights, and the important small frontal overlap test. Earlier this summer, Tesla was given a second chance to meet the Top Safety Pick Plus level.
When the Tesla Model S was tested late last year, the new model purchased did not have automatic emergency braking. Tesla had interrupted that important safety feature, which real-world studies have found reduced crashes by 40%. The technology is now commonplace and found on almost all new Toyotas, some costing as little as $20K. Tesla was the last luxury automaker to adopt the technology and has had the hardest time maintaining its availability. It is back now on new Model S cars, but just with low-speed protection. IIHS didn’t evaluate the active safety of the Model S in this new round of tests. As it turns out, it would not have mattered in the overall rating.
The biggest surprise is that the Model S still cannot earn the highest score of “Good” on the important small frontal overlap test IIHS conducts. This test simulates a vehicle hitting a utility pole, tree, or an oncoming car with just a portion of the front corner.
The test was added in 2012 and is the most difficult on which to score a “good” rating. Still, most new cars do earn that rating, but Tesla has struggled to find a way for the Model S to match its peers.
In the first test, the dummy’s head and torso moved too far forward. The dummy’s head then hit the steering wheel hard. Tesla was given another bite at the apple by IIHS and the company made changes to the Model S in order to do better. However, the second Model S tested still had problems with the dummy’s head hitting the steering wheel.
More concerning, IIHS reports that when the Tesla Model S was tested the second time, the left front wheel intruded 11 inches into the lower section of the driver’s space and five inches in the instrument panel area. The Model S retains its “Acceptable” score in this crash test, but falls short of the “Good” level required to earn a top rating.
Last, the Model S is still equipped with headlight options that earn a “Poor” result in testing. Tesla didn’t make any changes to the headlights after the first round showed that they were not even close to meeting the requirements. That alone would have kept Tesla off the Top Safety Pick Plus list.
Tesla was joined by the Mercedes E-Class, Lincoln Continental, Toyota Avalon, Chevy Impala, and Ford Taurus in this round of large car testing. It has the highest MSRP of the group. Mercedes, Toyota, and Lincoln products all earn a Top Safety Pick Plus Rating.
In the last round of IIHS electric vehicle testing, the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Prime were in the Model S’s grouping, and both earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating. The pricier Tesla Model S and BMW i3 did not.