Feds quietly prod Elon Musk over 'inaccurate' Tesla safety claims

Tesla Dojo Computer

The NHTSA said it also sent subpoenas to Tesla seeking information on several crashes involving the company's vehicles.

Elon's Musk claims that Tesla's Model 3 sedan is the safest vehicle in the world resulted in a cease-and-desist letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to internal documents released this week.

"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. Tesla Inc. shares wrapped up the day 1.16 percent higher to $233.42 on Wednesday's (August 7th) market closure despite a flurry of dubitable concerns pointing triggers towards Tesla e-vehicle's safety issues. The agency said then that it doesn't rate vehicles beyond five stars. The agency also asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the statements "constitute [d] unfair or deceptive acts or practices". A spokeswoman for the FTC declined to comment.

In that letter, Tesla emphasized that it was using NHTSA's own publicly available data for almost 1,000 vehicles.

Sure, physics is on the side of NHTSA but the agency only tests the physical integrity of the Tesla electric vehicle and not the other safety features like the autopilot, full-self driving capabilities, and emergency braking.

The letter came to light this week after an exchange of letters and emails between NHTSA and Tesla executives starting last October and running through February of this year was posted on Plainsite, a legal transparency website.

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Safety groups have criticized Tesla and Musk for being unclear in statements about the capabilities of its partially autonomous driving feature called Autopilot, which falls short of a full self-driving system that would have no need of driver intervention. The better the VSS score, the less likely the occupants are to get injured. "It is impossible to say based on the frontal crash results or overall vehicle scores whether the Model 3 is safer than other 5-star rated vehicles".

The NHTSA would have liked Tesla to stop there.

Tesla disagreed with the agency's position.

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.

Tesla didn't back down in its public statements last October. "Tesla's statement is neither untrue or misleading", a company lawyer wrote on Halloween.

Neither Tesla nor the NHTSA immediately responded to a request for comment on the matter.

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