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NHTSA Warns Tesla To Stop ‘Misleading’ People On Model 3 Safety Rating

NHTSA Warns Tesla To Stop ‘Misleading’ People On Model 3 Safety Rating

Tesla noticed that the Model 3 had a better VSS score than any other vehicle on the market.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent Elon Musk a cease-and-desist letter last October over "misleading statements" Tesla made about the Model 3's safety.

"This is not the first time that Tesla has disregarded the guidelines in a manner that may lead to consumer confusion and give Tesla an unfair market advantage", Bloomberg quoted NHTSA Chief Counsel Jonathan Morrison as saying in an October 17 letter addressed to Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.

The safety board removed Tesla from its regular participation in its probe of the Model X crash in March 2018, saying the company disclosed information about the case in spite of an agreement not to do so while the probe was underway.

The NHTSA has already said that it is not possible to say that the Tesla Model 3 with its 5-star ratings is safer than other similarly rated vehicles during a head-to-head collision.

The NHTSA said it was referring Tesla's safety claims about the Model 3 to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the automaker's statements constituted unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

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An FTC spokesman declined to comment, saying "investigations are non-public, and we don't comment on. the existence of an investigation". The NHTSA didn't directly respond to Tesla's comments at that time, but the agency did say that it "does not distinguish safety performance beyond (a five-star) rating, thus there is no "safest" vehicle among those vehicles achieving five-star ratings". (CR's Friedman was deputy administrator at NHTSA at the time.) Consumer groups and safety advocates also have criticized Tesla for overhyping the capabilities of technologies, such as the Autopilot driver-assistance system and the company's "Full Self Driving" feature.

The document, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by nonprofit legal transparency group Plainsite, revealed that the NHTSA sent Tesla a cease-and-desist letter past year ordering Tesla to stop advertising the Model 3 as the safest auto tested by the agency. "Tesla's statement is neither untrue nor misleading".

The Model 3 had got top rating on the agency's 5-Star Safety Ratings Program that uses three crash tests and a rollover resistance assessment to come up with an overall ranking.

Tesla previously ran afoul of the agency's safety rating guidelines in 2013 when it claimed that the Model S had achieved a "new combined record of 5.4 stars" - despite the fact that the NHTSA only issues safety ratings of up to 5 stars. The family of the deceased driver sued Tesla last week.

"Respectfully, we disagree with the agency's position".

A Tesla spokeswoman said Wednesday the company wouldn't comment beyond its letter to NHTSA.