First the Tesla Model S got the highest score of any car Consumer Reports had ever reviewed, blowing testers away with its “innovation,” “world-class performance,” and “impressive attention to detail.” Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has awarded the car its highest rating possible, a five out of five in every category. (Note to luxury sports-car enthusiasts: Grist does not condone reckless driving no matter how high a car’s safety rating or how low its emissions.)
According to Tesla, “approximately one percent of all cars tested by the federal government achieve 5 stars across the board.” More from the company’s press release:
Of all vehicles tested, including every major make and model approved for sale in the United States, the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. While the Model S is a sedan, it also exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans. This score takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.
The Model S achieved such a high score in large part because it’s an electric vehicle. The front of the car has only trunk space where a gasoline engine block would normally be, so it has a much longer “crumple zone” — the part of the car that absorbs impact in a head-on collision. And the battery pack’s location beneath the floor gives the car a low center of gravity that substantially lowers its rollover risk.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that the Model S doesn’t have a combustion engine (which carries the risk of, you know, combusting). Tesla says that none of its lithium-ion batteries have caught fire so far.
Aside from its out-of-reach price tag, the Model S is starting to sound like the best car on the market. Matt Yglesias points out that Tesla has more incentive than your typical car company to make that the case:
Because Tesla makes electric cars, anything that happens to the Model S isn’t just a car story. It’s a business story, it’s a politics story, it’s an energy story, it’s an innovation story, it’s an interesting story. …
Any failure they have will be a much bigger deal than a failure at a comparably sized car company would be. But conversely, any time they manage to excel at anything they can guarantee that it’ll get noticed. … “Our sedan is the safest car in the world” sounds boring. But when your sedan is also an all-electric vehicle that’s scored off-the-charts rave reviews in other respects, now you’ve got a nice feather in your cap.
Now, if they ever make a more basic version of the Model S that somehow drops into an accessible price range, I may suddenly find myself interested in car ownership.