Tesla Model S Stripped of Top Safety Rating


It’s been more than six months since you could buy a brand-new Tesla Model S equipped with a functional automatic emergency braking (AEB) system — despite the fact that AEB has been touted as one of thE car’s active safety features the whole time. Tired of waiting, the long-term product testers at Consumer Reports have officially lowered their published safety ratings on new Tesla electric vehicles.

“When we purchased our latest test car, we were assured automatic emergency braking would be enabled by the end of 2016,” says Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in Colchester, Conn. “We’ve been waiting for this important safety feature- which is standard equipment on (many) much cheaper cars.”

Tesla earned some of the highest safety marks possible when the company first crash-tested its popular Model S sedan a few years ago, and has held the top spot in Consumer Reports’ safety ratings ever since. That is, until the ratings drop happened- now, the Model S is ranked third in its segment. Tesla’s Model X SUV/minivan/space egg fares even worse with the ratings drop. It’s new score of 56 (down from 58) puts it near the bottom of the luxury mid-size SUV segment.

Will Lower Safety Ratings Hurt Tesla?

The trouble for Tesla doesn’t end with lower consumer ratings, either. The long wait has driven some Tesla customers to file a lawsuit against the electric car maker, seeking compensation for the slow rollout of AEB and other technology. In response, Tesla called the claims “inaccurate and sensationalistic.” Tesla accused the plaintiffs of spreading “exactly the kind of misinformation that threatens to harm consumer safety,” … which, you know, is what you’d expect from a multi-billion dollar company trying to avoid liability for any accident claims that could have been prevented by, I don’t know, a feature like an autonomous emergency brake thing.

Do you know what I am saying?

For its part, though, Tesla insists it’s actually looking out for its customers by withholding promised safety features. “Automatic Emergency Braking and other safety features are a top priority, and we plan to introduce them as soon as they’re ready,” Tesla said in the statement earlier this week. “We believe it would be morally wrong and counterproductive to our goal of improving consumer safety to release features before they’re ready, and we believe our customers appreciate that.”

Obviously, some of them don’t — but what about you guys? Do you think Tesla has failed to take the AEB delays seriously enough, or is Consumer Reports making a big deal out of nothing? Let us know what you think of Tesla’s ratings takedown in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Source | Images: Consumer Reports.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • Kieran Delaney

    Disappointing, but I’m sure they will roll it out as soon as they are ready. We forget the ‘luxury mid-sized SUV segment’ is small and dominated by stalwarts such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW…all of whom have developed such technology a long time ago.

    Tesla, for some reason, seems to be reinventing the wheel and I have no idea why…but I don’t worry about it either.

    • The most worrying part is the “sell now, deliver later” attitude. I think it’ll end up turning a lot of people off.

      • Joe Viocoe

        You take the good with the bad I suppose. Sometimes Tesla gives updates that were unexpected, adding to the value paid.

      • Kieran Delaney

        Not necessarily, but I’m sure it will turn a fair few off.

        The problem is with Elon’s whole mantra/mentality. He’s impatient, and so he over promises.

  • Michael

    By all means deliver it when it’s ready, just let your customers know and accept the lower safety rating until its introduced

  • James Rowland

    Given that AEB for Hardware 2 was released the same day Consumer Reports lowered their rating, following a previous announcement from Tesla that it was due that week, this looks like attention seeking from CR, or at best a major oversight.

    It has taken three times longer than initially promised – much the same as with Hardware 1 – and we can rightly say that Tesla has again underestimated the technical difficulty of engineering these systems.

    We can’t rightly claim that Tesla aren’t acting in good faith; they are doing what they promised, only slower.

    Obviously, there’ll be more people unwilling to put up with these delays as Tesla’s market share increases. However, I think that’s going to be a second order effect compared to enthusiasm for the advantages of EVs and Tesla in particular.

    It’s also a temporary effect; now Tesla have their own platform, they won’t have to redo this once it’s done.

    • Doing what you promised, but not when you promised, is a breach of almost every contract law and ethical standard out there, though.

      • James Rowland

        Granted, though you might have an interesting time trying to get a court to interpret a tweet as a legal contract, even if it was from the CEO.

        The official words were immaculately nonspecific, IIRC.

  • Um, did I just read that?

    “It’s new score of 58 (down from 58) puts it near the bottom…”