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2019 Tesla Model 3 Earns Good Score In New IIHS Headlight Testing – May Later Qualify For Top Safety Rating

Tesla made changes to its Model 3 headlights. Here’s why it matters to both drivers of the Model 3 and those in traffic around the car.

The Tesla Model 3 underwent testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) early this year. The group tested the active safety systems and headlights of the new luxury-performance electric vehicle. As expected, the Model 3 scored “Superior” on its active safety systems, however on its headlight testing the Model 3 scored just “Acceptable.” While certainly not a bad score, an IIHS headlight rating lower than “Good” eliminates a model from qualifying for the Top Safety Pick Plus designation. No Tesla model has ever earned either a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus rating.

model 3

Despite having advanced headlights, the Model 3’s score was lower than that of past green cars tested like the more affordable Toyota Prius V (since discontinued) and Chevy Volt, both of which earned a Good rating. We spoke to IIHS’ Manager of Active Safety, David Aylor, about the Model 3’s headlights. He told us that they have been improved in two important ways. "Our testing determined that the prior LED reflector headlights employed by Tesla in the Mode 3 produced glare visible to oncoming drivers. Tesla's new headlights do not produce that glare." Mr. Aylor added, "Our testing also showed improved visibility on both low and high beam settings."

The new headlight rating means that the Model 3 could now earn the top score, and bypass the rating of the Model S, which has twice failed to meet the required grade on important the small frontal overlap test. However, Tesla opted out of inclusion in the schedule for IIHS’s latest testing. Therefore, we won’t know how well the Model 3 does on America’s toughest crash tests until later in 2019 at the earliest. IIHS does not presently have the Model 3 on its testing schedule.

IIHS keeps automakers up to date on its testing plans. Prior to its annual summary of the safest vehicles, it offers automakers the opportunity to “nominate” models it wants to be tested early in the yearly schedule. Although the Model 3 has been on sale since July of 2017, Tesla opted not to nominate its 2019 Model 3 for testing. Why Tesla opted out is not clear.

The improvements to the Model 3’s headlights are not the result of just a software update according to Mr. Aylor. Both physical and also software and firmware changes were made by Tesla. Models manufactured after June of 2018 have the improved headlights. We will be sure to report on any new Tesla vehicle safety testing and results. With the Model 3 now the 6th leading car in sales in America and outselling the entire Audi brand in America, it certainly seems like a vehicle worthy of a test slot soon.

Headlight performance chart courtesy of IIHS.