As you may have heard by now, the 2016 Tesla Model S wasn’t chosen by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as a “Top Safety Pick” during the most recent testing round. The reasons? The Model S only managed to nab an “Acceptable” rating on the small overlap front crash scenario, and a “Poor” rating for the headlights.
Notably, Dave Zuby at IIHS stated: “Neither of these (potential injuries) were so high that we would expect life threatening injuries, but they are too high in our opinion to get ‘Good’ ratings for those body regions.”
The “Acceptable” rating was the result of the Model S safety belt not always adequately preventing the crash dummy’s head from impacting the steering wheel. There were also some concerns about possible leg injuries in the small overlap tests. Tesla has reportedly already made changes to address the potential crash issues, but the IIHS has yet to test the newly modified Model S. (It’s also reportedly working with the headlights supplier to make changes.) Following the IIHS releasing its results, Tesla provided the following statement (emailed to CleanTechnica in response to part of this article):
“We are committed to making the world’s safest cars, and Model S has previously received a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a 5-star rating from Euro NCAP. Model S still has the lowest ever probability of injury of any car ever tested by NHTSA.
“We proactively develop updates and aggressively implement changes onto the production line in record time any time there is a substantial benefit to customer safety. One of the improvements recently introduced in January 2017 specifically addresses the “Acceptable” (or second highest) rating that the Model S achieved in the small overlap frontal crash test, and we expect new tests to yield the highest possible rating (“Good” rating) in the crashworthiness category.
“Additionally, IIHS tested a vehicle that was in transition with new Autopilot hardware, but without the new software that enables Automatic Emergency Braking. In the coming weeks, Automatic Emergency Braking will be deployed via a free over-the-air software update, and IIHS will be testing a new vehicle. We expect to receive the highest possible rating in every category, making Model S eligible for the IIHS Top Safety Pick award.”
The IIHS also raised concerns about the strength of the roof in the P100D variant. One has to wonder when a P100D would ever end up upside down for that concern to matter, though. The Model S P100D seems nearly impossible to roll because of its extremely heavy and low center of gravity. So that doesn’t seem like a real safety problem, to my eyes anyway.
All of that Tesla Model S news you may have already heard. What you may not have heard, though, is that the 2017 Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius Prime both managed to land in the Top Safety Pick+ category.
Here’s more on that from the IIHS itself:
“The 2017 Volt can be optionally equipped with either an advanced- or superior-rated front crash prevention system. It earns a good rating for headlights when equipped with optional high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams based on the presence of other vehicles. Without high-beam assist, the Volt’s headlights are acceptable.
“The Prius Prime is the plug-in version of the Prius hybrid, also a Top Safety Pick+ winner. Its standard front crash prevention system earns a superior rating, and its only available headlights earn an acceptable rating.”
Something that should be remembered here — the Tesla Model S is a much larger and heavier car than the Chevy Volt (or the Toyota Prius Prime), so despite the ratings difference, the Model S is still much more likely to get you through a bad crash intact. Or, to put that another way, in an all-things-being-equal crash between the Model S and the Volt, the Volt would definitely come out of it far worse for wear than the Model S.
Nonetheless, those are impressive ratings for the Chevy Volt, and yet another reason to give serious consideration to the purchase of one. Notably, the IIHS will be testing the Chevy Bolt EV later this year, following its nationwide rollout.
Here are some videos for those wanting to watch the models crash into things:
As a final bit of explanation here: To be chosen as one of the IIHS’s Top Safety Pick+ winners, a vehicle needs to earn “Good” ratings in all 5 crashworthiness evaluations — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints — and also possess a front crash prevention system that’s earned an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating. In order to get the extra “Plus” award, a vehicle needs to feature “Good” or “Acceptable” headlights.
That last bit doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult to do, so it’s disappointing to see that Tesla has fallen behind there. The rating isn’t surprising, though, as I’ve heard complaints about the relatively new headlights from a number of owners. Tesla is reportedly working to address the issue, though, so perhaps new, better headlights will become the standard on the company’s cars relatively soon.
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