IIHS Can't Complete Tesla Model 3 Crash & Safety Testing - Here's Why
Today we learned that the Tesla Model 3 will not earn the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick Plus rating. It cannot because its headlight rating was not high enough (see detailed overview). That does not mean the Tesla Model 3 is unsafe, or not safe, or not a great car. It just means it can't earn the same high safety rating that cars about half its price, like Hyundai's Elantra and Subaru's Impreza have already earned.
IIHS has the time, the resources and the interest to test the country's Top-selling electric vehicle. However, like many groups and individuals, it can't get the cars.
IIHS buys the cars it tests. The funding comes from U.S.-market insurance companies, not the taxpayers. In the case of all but Tesla, the group buys test vehicles directly from dealers and then tests them with no modifications. The tests are run on cars just like the one you might buy and drive home. IIHS ordered the Model 3 car it did non-destructive testing on almost 11 months ago directly from Tesla before the first ones had ever been delivered to any owner. Rather than carve out some early inventory for safety groups, consumer groups, and perhaps as media fleet vehicles for independent testing, Tesla instead opted to allocate the first Model 3 cars to insiders and employees. The very first one, instead of being raffled off to generate money for charity, or perhaps to be used as a museum-quality undriven car, went to Elon Musk, courtesy of one Tesla's board members who gifted it to Mr. Musk.
Because IIHS conducts the most comprehensive safety testing of U.S.-market vehicles, it requires multiple vehicles to conduct all of its crash testing. IIHS's Russ Rader Torque News that to do the full complement of testing, "We (IIHS) would need 5 vehicles – moderate overlap front, driver-side small overlap, passenger-side small overlap, side impact and roof strength."
Tesla would not sell IIHS a base model Tesla, never mind five. Because there is no "base" Model 3. As far as we can determine, the only Model 3s delivered since last July (2017) have had the added battery capacity and premium interior package. That jacks up the price significantly. Consumer Reports paid $59K for its Model 3. Tesla did, however, offer IIHS an expedited delivery for a car in February, which IIHS accepted. That car showed up in April and it was the one from which the limited test results came.
The remaining four IIHS Tesla Model 3 test vehicles IIHS requires to complete testing are still on backorder, and although terribly wasteful, will presumably be destroyed with the premium interiors and added battery capacity. When that will happen is anyone's guess. IIHS has not yet scheduled the remaining safety analysis, which consists of all of the actual crash tests.
None of these safety testing delays would have been an issue if Tesla had met its own initial promises for Model 3 deliveries. As anyone watching Tesla knows by now, production has been an ongoing problem.
View the complete data available on IIHS testing of the Model 3 thus far here. Note that if you click on the blue "Headlights" and "Front Crash Prevention" links at the bottom they will expand to show the full results.