NHTSA Sent Cease-And-Desist Letter To Tesla Over Model 3 Safety Claims

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tesla on October 17, 2018, accusing them of failing to conform to their guidelines when the car maker claimed that the Model 3 had the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by NHTSA.

The US regulators also sent two subpoenas to Tesla, concerning crashes involving its cars. Reuters got hold of the documents. Tesla stood by its claims, saying that they used NHTSA’s own data to back them up.

According to NHTSA, the cease-and-desist letter was referring Tesla’s safety claims on the Model 3 to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether these statements constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

Also Read: Tesla Hit With Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Fatal Model 3 Autopilot Crash

The FTC declined to comment, with a spokesman saying that “investigations are non-public, and we don’t comment on … the existence of an investigation.”

A Tesla spokesman pointed at the company’s letter to NHTSA on October 31, 2018, where the company’s deputy general counsel Al Prescott said: “Tesla’s statement is neither untrue nor misleading. … We had hoped NHTSA would welcome such an achievement because it was presented in an objective manner using the agency’s own data.”

In its letter to Tesla on October 17, NHTSA said that the company’s safety claims were “inappropriate” and “inconsistent” with the agency’s guidelines.

“The guidelines warn against comparison statements like these because such statements mislead consumers about the relative safety of different vehicle models,” NHTSA chief counsel Jonathan Morrison wrote.

“To say Tesla’s midsize sedan has a lower probability of injury than say a larger SUV could be interpreted as misunderstanding safety data, an intention to mislead the public, or both,” he added.

The Tesla Model 3 received the top rating in NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings Program, which is comprised by three crash tests and a rollover resistance assessment. However Tesla has been critisized by safety groups over the use of the term “full self-driving”, which is untrue since the company’s automated driving system hasn’t reached yet the Level 4 of autonomy.

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  • TheBelltower

    This story is nearly a year old. NHTSA’s own rankings are pretty conclusive. No one on the planet with an IQ above 70 would think that a car with a 5-star safety rating would fare well against a 2-star Semi tractor.


    • Ben

      Where is the Mercedes E300? I heard it was supposed to be incredibly safe. Are only a select few automobiles reported in the graph?

  • Kash

    shocking, tesla in trouble with the FTC again, but did they seriously just call the Model 3 a midsize sedan? Since when!?

  • Rimas Kurtinaitis

    Teslas are nothing more than a piece of tech that happens to have four wheels. Hard pass.

    • Exotics

      A Tesla is the most fun thing you can buy, ever. It’s not actually a car, it’s a thing that maximizes enjoyment

      Tesla is the world’s largest electric vehicle company. They sell more electric vehicles than any other company on Earth

      Soon, all vehicles will be electric.

      Imagine you had to go somewhere other than your home to charge your phone

      Now imagine you had to go somewhere other than your home to charge your car.

      2020 is nearing. Every day gas cars become more and more a thing of the past.

      You won’t be in denial forever. Eventually you will drive electric. We are leaving gas stations in the past this century

      • Rimas Kurtinaitis

        I love electric cars. Of course they are the future of driving (and enjoying driving) for myriads of reasons.

        But not Teslas. They are a very bad execution of a fantastic concept.

        • TrevP

          How? Nothing on the market can compare to a Tesla in terms of EV’s.

          • Rimas Kurtinaitis

            That’s because there is no supply at all right now, and major automakers are trying to catch up. By the time they catch up, however, Musk and his loss-making toy that he calls a company is toast. Teslas can’t be compared against anything in the mass market, really; only the e-tron is an exception, and it beats the Model X at any possible comparison.

            Bright future for us; not for Tesla. Thankfully.

          • TrevP

            The Model X is revolutionary. Nearly all of the bugs and manufacturing issues are solved on the X and S. Not to mention how good the warranty is, and how safe the vehicles are. The e-tron cant come close in terms of range, and warranty. By the time all other manufactures catch up Tesla will still be ahead. They have the best battery, motors, and they are constantly upgrading those components to make them even better and efficient. They have been doing the EV thing for a long time.

          • Ben

            The Model X is revolutionary.

            All aboard the hyperbole train, last call, straight shot towards bankruptcy, ALL ABOARD!!!

          • TrevP

            Say what you want. The fact is that they are winning in the EV segment. Currently. I see your skepticism and try to understand but I am sorry, I just can’t think Tesla won’t make it in this market.

          • TheBelltower

            “… it beats the Model X at any possible comparison.”

            Imma stop you right there. Are you high? The e-Tron doesn’t compare at all with the X, which has been on the market for nearly four years. Not even close. Audi really needs to do better.

  • Mr. EP9

    Like Elon is going to let some dubious safety claims get into the way of marketing.

  • Exotics

    1 year old article that was made to lower the stock with false claims. Why is this being posted?

    Model 3 is the safest car ever tested period

    • Ben

      I dunno, I think in the real world I’d rather be in a F250. Something with some bulk. Yes, there is the roll over risk, but don’t drive it like a Lotus Exige and you’ll be fine. That being said, I don’t know much about safety ratings. I’m still feeling invincible in life lol.

  • TrevP

    Tesla never lied or made a false claim.

    • Dennis James

      Autopilot is both a lie and a false claim.

      • TrevP

        Autopilot is an optional driver-assist system.

        • Mike anonymous

          If they understand that is not the general publics consensus on the matter, then they will need to make a clear statement letting people know as such.

          Making a statement as such could hurt sales understandably, or worse, brand image/perception (which is one of the main fuels of Teslas’ fire so-to-speak, but it certainly would be able to save lives.

          The company needs to be more clear about what their system can and can not do publicly, simply putting ‘not real autopilot system (I understand those are not the exact words, but I am sure you ma understand what I mean when I say it;) is not enough. If the company is serious about it, they will need to stop promoting the system as ‘full-self driving’ and make it clear to the general public exactly what the system IS, as well as what it CAN and CAN NOT do.

          • TrevP

            It’s pretty clear if you do your research. Just like anyone should when purchasing a new vehicle. They make it clear it’s a driver assist system. If you can’t understand that then you are the problem.

          • Mike anonymous

            Well it would seem that there are a lot of people (based on your words) with that problem. If a company knows this problem is the ‘general consensus‘ within the public eye, they (maybe) should more properly inform people (especially if the problem is widespread and has negatively affected people).

            I of course know that it is stated, and they make it clear it is a driver assist system, but it is very close to being false advertisement of a product (as I do not feel you should have to do research or digging to find out that the system is not exactly what it says it is. It should be something the company is VERY clear and upfront about.).

            Wether they (or the people buying the products) are the cause of this problem (while they as a company do not ‘have‘ to do anything) they (in my own opinion) should. If there is a problem, be it yours, or someone else, would you want to intervene and try to amend the problem, or ignore it?

            … But hey, I suppose that is just my own opinion on the matter. I’m not disagreeing with you.

      • Julien Lachemoi

        Doesn’t Tesla themselves warn people their autopilot isn’t full-proof ?

  • Six_Tymes

    I hope I live long enough to be able to use level 5

  • Kash

    I’m gonna ignore everything else you said because I know it’s just because you’re high off some Elon farts and focus on the last bit: it’s not a midsize, it’s a compact, like the 3 series and C-class. A mid-size is a Model S, 5 series, and E-class. There are segments between Micro and full size.

    You know what, I’m not gonna ignore the first part. NHTSA sent the letter in regards to a blog post from October 7th 2018. The post isn’t even a year old, thus the story can’t be a year old. Next, the documents weren’t obtained till August 6th of this year by the site called Plainsite via a FOIA request. The reason they had a problem with the post was because it didn’t comply with the NHTSA’s guidelines on how automakers should communicate safety ratings to consumers. The guidelines urge automakers to avoid phrases like “safest” and “perfect” because crash tests change and rating systems get adjusted as new safety tech becomes available. It can also become false advertising depending on the situation. Next, the NHTSA asked the FTC to look into the post because they felt it also violated the agreement Tesla/Musk had with the FTC over his $420/share tweet and they felt that by calling the Model 3 the “safest” that it would have a similar, manipulative effect on their stock price, just like the $420 tweet did. The NHTSA doesn’t want its crash tests being used to manipulate stock prices or company values, that’s not what they’re for. The ratings and tests exist to help consumers be safe and stay safe when driving. So regardless of whether the Model 3 is or isn’t the safest car, that’s not for the manufacturer to claim, that’s a conclusion for the consumer to come to after to studying the test results of vehicles in its class/price range that they’re shopping for.

    Sniff less farts my friend.

    • Mike anonymous

      Excellent Points Made I agree in regards to these.

      The guidelines urge automakers to avoid phrases like “safest” and “perfect” because crash tests change and rating systems get adjusted as new safety tech becomes available. It can also become false advertising depending on the situation

      The NHTSA doesn’t want its crash tests being used to manipulate stock prices or company values, that’s not what they’re for. The ratings and tests exist to help consumers be safe and stay safe when driving

  • TrevP

    I apologize if I came off as being disrespectful. I don’t mean to sound like a Tesla fan boy. Cause I’m not. Hell I drive a V8 RR and we have an X3 M-sport also. We like cars. It is all about preference and I do understand Tesla is far from perfect. If there was an electric S class, of course that’s the one you would pick. But there isn’t. I still disagree on Tesla being revolutionary because it totally is. IMO

    • Ben

      Its all gravy man! We love cars and this is a pretty cool place to talk about em. I’ve learned a lot from different posters and I’ve passed along info that I’ve picked up here and there. You and I are on the same page for sure. We both want Tesla to be around and more importantly, we want other automotive brands to continue to improve. That’s a middle ground that I like.

      • TrevP

        Well said!

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