Feds probe 'inaccurate' Tesla safety claims

Elon Musk in 2015

Tesla commented on the NHTSA's interest in Autopilot stating that such interest from a regulating body is normal: "Any regulator like NHTSA would be interested in new vehicle technologies and how they make our highways safer", Tesla said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Elon Musk's boasts about the safety of Tesla's vehicles earned him a slap on the wrist from U.S. regulators past year, newly released documents show.

Tesla, led by billionaire Elon Musk, has said the Model 3 "was engineered to be the safest auto ever built" with the lowest probability of injury of all vehicles ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

For example, if the Tesla Model 3, which weighs around 1,650 kg, were to crash head to head with a FORD F-150 having a weight of 2,766 kg, the occupants of the heavier vehicle were more likely to survive the crash.

A lawyer for Tesla says the company respectfully disagrees with the agency's claims.

"To say Tesla's midsize sedan has a lower probability of injury than say a larger SUV could be interpreted as misunderstanding safety data, an intention to mislead the public, or both", he added.

Tesla's October 31 response showed the company had no intention of backing down.

This is not the first time that Tesla was embroiled in this type of safety claims from the NHTSA. NHTSA did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning, and a spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment.

The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration is taking Tesla to task over its assertions about the agency's rating for the Model 3.

Tesla's electric vehicles are best known for its high-tech features such as its autopilot system. The agency said its crash tests combine into an overall safety rating and that it doesn't rank vehicles that score the same ratings.

Tesla, founded and run by Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk, on Wednesday stood by its safety claims, saying it used NHTSA's own data to back them up. One statement that NHTSA found to be misleading was, "NHTSA's tests also show that [Tesla Model 3] has the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested".

Prescott said in his letter that the agency's assertion that Tesla failed "to conform to NHTSA's NCAP advertising guidelines now or in the past is incorrect".

In the response, Tesla's deputy general counsel denied that the statements were misleading or untrue, given that the Model 3's score has been unmatched by other vehicles.

Owners continue to be frustrated by the issue as one Orlando, Florida owner, Nick Smith, notes Tesla has been hard to reach by phone and by email.