Tesla Inc. earned its first award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as two electric vehicles and one fuel cell vehicle earned top honors in crash tests.
The Tesla Model 3 and Audi e-tron EVs and Hyundai Nexo fuel cell vehicle received the IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus award, while the Chevrolet Bolt EV failed to qualify for a safety pick because of poor headlights.
“Vehicles with alternative powertrains have come into their own,” IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby said in a statement. “There’s no need to trade away safety for a lower carbon footprint when choosing a vehicle.”
The 2019 Model 3 earned “good” ratings, the organization’s best marks, across the board on a number of crash tests, including on the driver-side small overlap front test. On that measurement, IIHS noted there was a moderate risk of injury to the driver’s lower leg, but no other risk to other body parts.
Small-overlap crashes account for about 25 percent of serious driver injuries and deaths that occur in frontal impacts, IIHS said. During the test, introduced in 2012, 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall barrier at 40 mph.
The vehicles are graded with “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal” or “poor” ratings.
The Bolt also earned “good” grades in all tests except the passenger-side small overlap test, where it earned an “acceptable” mark. IIHS said that in that test, the passenger’s movement was less than ideal. Its headlights were rated “poor.”
Vehicles are awarded a Top Safety Pick Plus award if they score “good” on the passenger-side small overlap test and the headlight evaluation.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has come under scrutiny for past claims about the Model 3’s safety. NHTSA, the nation’s top auto safety regulator, this year sent him a cease-and-desist letter after he posted a blog in October 2018 claiming the sedan had achieved the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle the agency ever tested.
The regulator said the claims were inconsistent with its advertising guidelines regarding crash ratings and that it would ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the statements were unfair or deceptive acts.
NHTSA issued a similar statement in 2013, when Tesla said the Model S achieved a vehicle safety score equated to 5.4 stars. The agency said then that it doesn’t rate vehicles beyond 5 stars.