3 big cars ranked safest by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but not Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, a Tesla Model S is on display on the first press day of the Frankfurt Auto Show IAA in Frankfurt, Germany. Tesla Motors is recalling its entire fleet of Model S sedans to check their front seat belts after a passenger's seat belt became disconnected. The recall is the company's largest ever, involving 90,000 cars worldwide. Tesla sent an email Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 to affected customers.(AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Three of the biggest cars on the road may also be the safest according to the insurance industry.

Those high rankings by the Insurance Institute For Highway safety did not include the Tesla Model S, and Tesla is very unhappy about that.

The insurance institute conducted several kinds of tests on the cars; one of the more crucial tests was one that simulates a car’s ability to handle a left front driver’s side collision into an object like a telephone or light pole. It’s called a small overlap test.

The Lincoln continental, Mercedes Benz E class and Toyota Avalon received top crash ratings in that small overlap test. But, the Tesla Model S only received an acceptable rating.

“It’s acceptable; so it did not score as a top safety pick award,’’ explains David Zuby who is chief research officer with the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute says it has issues with the Tesla’s seat belt saying it wasn’t strong enough.

“The safety belt allowed the dummy to move too far forward and its head struck the steering wheel hard through the airbag,” said Zuby.

Tesla requested a second test after making changes to its seat belts. The institute claims that didn’t improve things.

“In our second test, the dummy’s head still struck the steering wheel hard,’’ said Zuby. “Even though the structure is the same, there’s much more intrusion into the driver’s side space in the second test.”

Headlights on the Tesla Model S were another issue.

“They have poor headlights,” said Zuby.

That’s based on the criteria of illuminating a pedestrian with low beams at 125 feet or a deer at 200 feet.

Tesla is taking issue with the Insurance Institute’s tests saying the IIHS has: ”Methods and motivations that suit their own subjective purposes, the most objective and accurate independent testing of vehicle safety is currently done by the US government.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Tesla Model S its highest safety rating in 2015, but the 2016 and 2017 models remain unrated by the NHTSA.


Want to dig deeper? Here are the complete details of the big car rankings.

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