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Is the Tesla Model 3 Really the Safest Mid-Size Car?

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【Summary】NHTSA breaks silence on Elon Musk's claim and clarifies if Tesla Model 3 is, in fact, the safest mid-size car.

Manish Kharinta    Oct 21, 2018 7:00 AM PT
Is the Tesla Model 3 Really the Safest Mid-Size Car?
author: Manish Kharinta   

After Tesla officially announced that its latest mass-market offering Model 3 is the safest vehicle one can buy, the automotive industry and media presented concerns about the legitimacy of that claim. Many mainstream news agencies an National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have not reported similar findings and this has resulted in many doubting the validity of Tesla's claim.

The NHTSA is not a body that ranks vehicles on their safety credentials. This administration has never provided lists or ranked cars based on their safety scores. NHTSA has also never provided an official statement pertaining to safety comparison results in which car models were made to compete against one another. 

In addition, the NHTSA has also never officially confirmed whether any particular 5-star candidate is superior to another model based on its safety score. To confirm the same, NHTSA released an official statement clarifying its duties and responsibilities. NHTSA stated that its Administration does not support any company's claim of its offerings being the safest 5-star candidate. 

NHTSA also refrained from addressing Tesla and Model 3 directly. In the official statement, the administration stated that the NHTSA's new car Assessment program which is also known as the 5-star rating program has been designed to provide customers with information about a particular new vehicle's crash protection and rollover safety. 

The 5-star rating uses the safety requirements of federal government as a benchmark to evaluate a particular car's safety characteristics.

The evaluation is based on a total of 3 crash tests, which includes two side crash tests, one frontal crash test and a rollover resistance assessment. The cars are also subjected to a driving maneuver test which is used to find out how top heavy a vehicle is and how susceptible a car is to tip over. The result of this rollover resistance test and the three crash tests are combined and weighted to derive a final rating. 

In this assessment, the highest score any car can receive is a 5-star safety rating. Once a score has been assigned to a particular car, the NHTSA does not further compare the cars that have received the same rating. 

The NHTSA followed its statement by saying that the administration does not consider any model to be the safest among others which received the same 5-star safety rating. Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that Model 3 is the safest mid-size car available in a tweet. 

However, since Tesla Model 3 has not been tested against other midsize cars which have also received 5-star safety rating this claim is quite questionable.

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