The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced its Top Safety Pick Plus winners, but the Tesla Model S failed to score among the elite.
The Tesla Model S is the company's second electric vehicle and its crown jewel, proving to be a great hit and gaining global praise. Tesla takes pride in having a safety-first design approach with all of its vehicles, but the Model S is not among the safest cars by IIHS's standards.
While the Tesla Model S passed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) tests, it did not fare so well in IIHS's crash tests for the Top Safety Pick+. This marks the second time the Model S fails to get on the IIHS's top list.
Tesla Model S Falls Short In IIHS Crash Rating
Back in February, the IIHS gave the Tesla Model S an "Acceptable" rating because the seatbelt left too much wiggle room for the test dummy during the small overlap test. While an acceptable score is good, it's not good enough for the Top Safety Picks+ elite.
Tesla took that rating into account and presumably addressed the issue to ensure the Model S is as safe as it can be, but the IIHS observed the same seatbelt problem upon retesting the vehicle. Consequently, the IIHS retains its Acceptable rating for the Tesla Model S.
Otherwise, the Tesla Model S scored high ratings in most crash test categories the IIHS evaluated. The car got a "Good" score in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints & seats tests, but received an "Acceptable" in small overlap front and a "Poor" in headlights. The IIHS did not test it for front-crash prevention.
IIHS Small Overlap Test
"The three cars qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, the Institute's highest award," says the IIHS. "The Tesla Model S, the Chevrolet Impala and the Ford Taurus fall short of any award because they each earn only an acceptable rating in the small overlap front test."
David Zuby, chief research officer and executive vice president at IIHS, points out that although some large vehicles score spectacular ratings, there are still some cars that don't manage to ace the small overlap test.
The small overlap test aims to assess a vehicle's safety in a crash when the front corner of the vehicle on the driver's side hits another vehicle, a utility pole, or a tree. According to the IIHS, the safety belt on the Tesla Model S let the dummy move too much during the simulated crash and the dummy got so far forward that its head hit the steering wheel through the airbag.