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.

Jo Borrás

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, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.