Government says there is no 'safest' car, after Tesla claims it achieved ‘best safety' of any cars ever tested

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is pushing back on Tesla’s suggestion that the Model 3 is the safest car it ever tested.

The electric sedan was issued the agency’s top five-star safety rating in September, scoring top marks in all categories, including rollover resistance. This puts it on the same tier as the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry, while beating the battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt, which was given an overall five-star rating but earned just four stars in front impact tests.

This week, however, Tesla released a deep-dive analysis of publically available NHTSA crash test data that it says shows the Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury of any car, with the Tesla Model S and Model X ranked second and third.

"...We engineered Model 3 to be the safest car ever built. Now, not only has Model 3 achieved a perfect 5-star safety rating in every category and sub-category, but NHTSA’s tests also show that it has the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested," the blog said.

This prompted NHTSA to issue a statement clarifying its position on safety claims:

“Results from these three crash tests and the rollover resistance assessments are weighted and combined into an overall safety rating. A 5-star rating is the highest safety rating a vehicle can achieve. NHTSA does not distinguish safety performance beyond that rating, thus there is no "safest" vehicle among those vehicles achieving 5-star ratings.”

It's not the first time that the automaker has rankled the federal agency. Using a similar data analysis in 2013, Tesla claimed that the Model S actually scored 5.4 stars, which resulted in an admonition by NHTSA and new rules preventing car companies from promoting their cars with anything that suggested they earned higher than a five-star rating.

The agency has not indicated that it plans to take any action against Tesla beyond the statement it released.

NHTSA is considering changes to its five-star crash assessment program and said it needs “to be modernized to incentivize the voluntary adoption of safety features,” according to Reuters.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet released ita crash test results for the Model 3.