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Tesla Model S Fails to Achieve Top IIHS Crash Rating

Tesla says changes currently on the production line will earn the Model S a top rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after falling short of that designation following crash tests.

The ratings for the Model S apply to 2016 and 2017 cars built after October 2016. Tesla says it made a production change on Jan. 23 to address a head-contact problem found in the evaluation, and IIHS will test the updated vehicle for small overlap protection as soon as it can be delivered.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn good ratings in all five crashworthiness evaluations – small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints – and have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating. The “plus” is awarded to vehicles that meet all those criteria and also come with good or acceptable headlights.

The IIHS evaluation of the Model S included the following observations:

  • The Model S, a large luxury sedan, earns good ratings in all IIHS crashworthiness evaluations except the challenging small overlap front crash test, in which it earns an acceptable rating. Despite lengthening the side curtain airbags to improve small overlap protection in the Model S, Tesla ran into problems in the test when the safety belt allowed the dummy’s torso to move too far forward. That allowed the dummy’s head to hit the steering wheel hard through the airbag. Measurements from the dummy indicated that injuries to the head, along with the lower right leg, would be possible in a real-world crash of the same severity.
  • Although the i3, the Volt and the Prius all did better in the small overlap evaluation than the Model S, the results can’t be compared because the Model S is larger than the others. Since the kinetic energy involved in a front crash depends on the speed and weight of the vehicle, the Tesla’s acceptable rating is based on a more severe crash than the good ratings of the lighter cars.
  • One version of the Model S, the P100D, also falls short on roof strength, which is important for protecting people in a rollover crash. The rating is based on a strength-to-weight ratio. The P100D has the same roof structure as other Model S versions but is heavier, due to a larger battery, so it earns an acceptable rating.
  • The current version of the Model S hasn’t yet been rated for front crash prevention. While automatic braking equipment comes standard, Tesla hasn’t yet activated the software for all vehicles.
  • The 2017 Model S isn’t available with anything other than poor-rated headlights. Tesla says it is working with its supplier to improve the headlights, and IIHS will evaluate the new ones when they are available.

Tesla quickly issued a statement on the rating:

“We are committed to making the world’s safest cars, and Model S has previously received a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a 5-star rating from Euro NCAP. Model S still has the lowest ever probability of injury of any car ever tested by NHTSA.

We proactively develop updates and aggressively implement changes onto the production line in record time any time there is a substantial benefit to customer safety. One of the improvements recently introduced in January 2017 specifically addresses the “Acceptable” (or second highest) rating that the Model S achieved in the small overlap frontal crash test, and we expect new tests to yield the highest possible rating (“Good” rating) in the crashworthiness category.

Additionally, IIHS tested a vehicle that was in transition with new Autopilot hardware, but without the new software that enables Automatic Emergency Braking. In the coming weeks, Automatic Emergency Braking will be deployed via a free over-the-air software update, and IIHS will be testing a new vehicle. We expect to receive the highest possible rating in every category, making Model S eligible for the IIHS Top Safety Pick award.”

A video of the Tesla’s moderate overlap crash test is below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4PVEsOlHNk

Dec 19, 2015
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North Dallas, Texas
You're right the headlights have always been underperforming compared to other luxury brands. Hopefully they fix this quickly. The child seat anchors (LATCH) recived a marginal rating due to being too deep in the seat and difficult to maneuver around.
 

Gen3

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Dec 18, 2014
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I believe Elon takes safety very seriously. When introducing model S he talked about his kids in the car, and family and friends driving teslas. Also, all his car reveals start with safety.

I'm curious how long it will take to get the engineering done to get TSP+.

Also, I wonder how much this affect model 3
 

jelloslug

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Jul 21, 2015
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I believe Elon takes safety very seriously. When introducing model S he talked about his kids in the car, and family and friends driving teslas. Also, all his car reveals start with safety.

I'm curious how long it will take to get the engineering done to get TSP+.

Also, I wonder how much this affect model 3
The notes say that Tesla has already fixed the small overlap airbag performance, they are working with the headlight supplier to remedy the headlight issue, and that advanced safety features were not turn on at the time of testing (I'm assuming that they crash tested AP2 hardware cars).
 

xborg

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Oct 21, 2015
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It doesn't take a genius to see that new headlights are worse. Why Tesla had to wait IIHS test to decide on improvements? It's been almost a year those were released. New headlights were probably released as a cost cutting item, not an improvement.

@jelloslug no, probably they are not going to retro fit anything. Their answer will be "oh, Tesla is improving every day, you can't have all the improvements, if you don't order a new car every 6 months."
It would be nice of them to retrofit at least those seat belt improvements. It's much more critical than headlights.
 
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Vitold

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Aug 10, 2015
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And here's the video of the small overlap test that was given 'acceptable' rating.


Chevy Volt - Top Safety Pick - for comparison:


Two electric cars miss IIHS awards

One thing to note is that during this particular test (small overlap) car's structure has to contend only with it's own inertia. Tesla being heavier requires stronger structure that's why it fares well in real life collisions.
 
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BLKTSLA

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Sep 22, 2016
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I doesn't take a genius to see that new headlights are worse. Why Tesla had to wait IIHS test to decide on improvements? It's been almost a year those were released. New headlights were probably released as a cost cutting item, not an improvement.

@jelloslug no, probably they are not going to retro fit anything. Their answer will be "oh, Tesla is improving every day, you can't have all the improvements, if you don't order a new car every 6 months."
It would be nice of them to retrofit at least those seat belt improvements. It's much more critical than headlights.

Agreed, havent upgraded yet for a few reasons and one of them is the headlights. Not sure why people arent making more noise at how poor the new headlights are over the old. The spread of light is weaker and the LED overlap is pretty bad (seeing each LED band instead of a smooth uniform spread of light like the classic model).

In regards to retrofits, if this is a safety concern Tesla will be offering retrofits! They are very serious when it comes to safety and if the IIHS says the headlights are poor then that could be interpreted as a safety concern and thus needs to be addressed. They don't offer retrofits mostly for the same reason they dont actually market the brand....they cannot handle the bandwidth. The Model 3 and its surprising demand should help remedy this and force them to scale accordingly and be able to accommodate retrofits and marketing!
 

SabrToothSqrl

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Dec 5, 2014
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I'm hopeful this forces Tesla to realize the headlights suck. The ones on my 09 Tahoe are 10x better...

I am glad Tesla appears to be responding with already improving the design to improve the crash parts.
Most makers wouldn't bother at all, or at least until next model year... Tesla has a fix it now mentality.
 

Boourns

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Mar 9, 2016
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The airbag/seat belt thing is fairly worrisome.

Since the new lights are LEDs, is there any chance a software fix might improve performance?
 

Az_Rael

Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
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Is the belt problem the lack of adjustable belt height?

Not sure. They said the belt let the head move too far into the steering wheel, so maybe a pre-tension problem?

Although I do personally have issues with the lack of seatbelt height adjustment - it cuts across the side of my neck and is probably less safe due to that, but I would imagine a crash test dummy is taller than me. I am only 5'3".
 

DFibRL8R

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Jan 17, 2013
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" The P100D has the same roof structure as other Model S versions but is heavier, due to a larger battery, so it earns an acceptable rating"

I call BS. The curb weight of the P100D is 4945lbs -v- 4936lbs for the P85D, a whopping 9Lbs. Based on other specs, adding the D increases the weight 177lbs and adding the P adds 112lbs. Overall, pretty small increases in weight to give a lower mark on the roof crush trust due to a calculated strength to weight ratio. That said, Tesla does need to find ways to reduce the weight of their vehicles for efficiency and safety. Also, good luck rolling a Model S given the exceptionally low center of gravity. The car basically needs to be launched in the air to end up on it's roof.
 
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Az_Rael

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Jan 26, 2016
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Note, the IIHS has both the Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ ratings. The Volt was in the latter category.

82 winners for 2017

Yes, I had a gen 1 Volt, but I was always impressed with its safety ratings for such a small car. Even when I complained about the monstrous A pillars blocking my view, I knew they would protect me in a rollover.
 

croman

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Nov 21, 2016
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Tesla had better act quickly or they will have major problems with new buyers, like myself, that bought this car mostly because it was marketed as the safest car available. They clearly acknowledge there are design defects that they are addressing/addressed. My car was only built 1.5 months ago and should not have a recently identified defect that cannot be addressed. While I think headlights can be retrofitted, I'm not sure about this seatbelt issue. Tesla better not shirk this off because they'll be contending with consumer fraud allegations based on the representations they made to customers when making purchases.
 
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JohnSnowNW

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Feb 13, 2015
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Tesla had better act quickly or they will have major problems with new buyers, like myself, that bought this car mostly because it was marketed as the safest car available.

They've already made changes...

That said, it's not as though it got a "marginal" or "poor" rating in the single test that earned it less than "Good." There was a very specific issue, during a very specific test...and none of it requires a design change to the structure of the vehicle. The vehicle was awarded 5-stars from two other tests...it'll be okay.
 
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