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NHTSA test shows Tesla Model S safest car ever

The electric Tesla Model S aced a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) test, scoring a record 5.4 stars. Although the maximum published rating is 5 stars, actual results reveal that Tesla got a higher score.

Tesla disrupts auto industry

tesla model s

A proud Tesla Model S driver. Image by cdorobek.

This rating should silence critics pointing out Tesla’s driving record is unproven since it is a newcomer in an industry dominated by behemoths which have been around for decades. “In the case of oil-based transport, there’s no choice, we’ve got to disrupt that, we’ve got to have sustainable means of transportation,” says Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

By developing an electric car that looks like a sports car, Tesla has only disrupted existing automobile norms further. Motor Trend’s named the Tesla Model S its 2013 Car of the Year. It was the first time in 64 years that the award went to a car that doesn’t run on gas.

Besides winning awards, the car is gaining sales. The Tesla Model S has already captured a 12% share of the luxury car market in California.

In the same way that the iPhone initially suffered from a high pricetag, Tesla Model S’s $50,000+ cost means that at least for now, the car is strictly for the well-heeled. Sure, you won’t need to spend on gas ever again, but being known as early adopters is more likely what is motivating buyers.

Tesla Model S safety performance likely to spur sales

Besides a revolutionary design, Tesla’s performance in the NHTSA test is likely to influence potential buyers. A 2012 Consumer Reports National Research Center survey found that safety was one of the top three factors motorists looked for in a car.

The Tesla Model S’s being fully electric could have been an advantage in getting that 5.4 rating from the NHTSA. “The Model S has the advantage in the front of not having a large gasoline engine block, thus creating a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high speed impact,” says Tesla.

The Tesla Model S also did well in the side pole intrusion test, the rear crash test, and the rollover risk test. “When we did the roof crush test … it got to four times the weight of the car and then the machine broke, so… literally, the thing that’s supposed to crush the car broke instead of the car,” says Musk.

A Tesla charges up. Image by Jeff Cooper.

The car’s lithium-ion battery did not catch fire during the testing and never has. The Model S can travel 300 miles on one charge and Tesla lets owners charge their cars for free on its Superchargers network. With plans to introduce a more affordable electric car “in about three to four years,” according to Musk, Tesla looks set to capture even larger share of the automobile market

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