Tesla Model S safety rating is five stars, company says

Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk walks Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk walks past the Tesla Model S after a news conference at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. Photo Credit: AP, 2012

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DETROIT - Tesla Motors Inc’s Model S sedan has won a five-star safety rating in every testing category across the board, a distinction awarded to just 1 percent of all vehicles tested by U.S. safety regulators, the electric car company said.

The battery-powered Model S set a record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants, Tesla said in a press release issued late Monday.

Tesla, based in Silicon Valley and led by billionaire Elon Musk, said the Model S exceeded the safety score of all sport-utility vehicles and minivans tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A spokeswoman for NHTSA could not be reached for comment.

Tesla said NHTSA tested for the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.

The Model S does not have a front engine block, giving it a longer "crumple zone" that allows the vehicle to absorb high-speed impacts better than most gasoline-powered rivals. A machine used in the roof-crush test broke while attempting to cave in the Model S roof, the company said.

The Model S is the best-selling U.S. electric car despite a starting price of $70,000 before a federal tax credit. The company sold 5,150 cars in the second quarter and expects to sell 21,000 cars this year.

Tesla shares have more than quadrupled this year.

"There will be a segment of the population that will find the safety issue a compelling reason to buy the car," said Theodore R. O’Neill, managing director at research firm Litchfield Hills Research LLC.

Separately, General Motors Co said on Tuesday that its new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks snagged an overall five-star safety rating from the U.S. government.

GM said the recently redesigned Silverado and Sierra are the first pickup trucks to receive the top rating since NHTSA changed its test procedures for 2011 models.

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