Tesla Model S Scores Best Safety Rating of Any Car Ever Tested by the U.S. Government

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 20 2013 9:26 AM

Tesla Model S Scores Best Safety Rating of Any Car Ever Tested by the U.S. Government

A Tesla motor company car logo sits on a car in a dealership at the Dadeland Mall on June 6, 2013 in Miami

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Tesla Model S was recently evaluated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Board and it came away with a score that the company characterizes as the highest rating ever received. Some of this is inherent safety features that seem to come from the use of an all-electric motor thereby giving the front of the car more crumple room. But a lot of it looks like the result of deliberate efforts that are only loosely related to the signature electrical nature of the car.

Except it's not entirely a coincidence. Part of what you see here is an engineering triumph, but I'd say a healthy share of it is that Tesla is cleverly taking advantage of a kind of positive hype feedback loop. If you took the typical auto manufacturer whose car rates above-average for safety and ask him why not invest the time and effort and money necessary to try to make it the safest car ever, he'll probably tell you that there just isn't much percentage in it. Americans are perfectly satisfied with the safety level of the average American car (you don't look up your friend's car's crash test rating before letting him give you a ride to the airport) and aren't in a hurry to pay a premium for premium engineering in this regard.

But Tesla is special. 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.


Elon Musk and his company and its car are in the public eye in the way that the typical car isn't. 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. So suddenly it makes sense to try to do "the best" of everything you can. "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.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.