Tesla's electric auto falls short in IIHS crash tests

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Funded by the insurance industry, the IIHS-which operates independently of the federal government-says that neither the BMW i3 nor the Tesla Model S performed well enough in its barrage of instrumented and measured tests to earn its top award.

The IIHS also raised concerns about the possibility of lower leg injuries during the same test.

It appears that great gas mileage - or no gas mileage at all - and safety can go hand-in-hand, according to the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing results. The IIHS rated the i3 acceptable in the head restraint test.

"We expect that the BMW engineers are working on improving the rear crash protection of the seats and look forward to testing those when they're available", said Zuby. It also took the time to rate the Tesla Model S and BMW i3 all-electric vehicles and noted that those fell just short of earning that "Plus" distinction. If a auto meets the requirements and passes the assessments, it can earn the "Plus" moniker if its headlights are found to be good or acceptable, as explained in a video below. Tesla Model S vehicles equipped with the second-generation hardware package have temporarily lost this feature.

Meanwhile, the two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Prime managed to impress the IIHS, with both being named as Top Safety Pick Plus cars.

The BMW i3, a small electric city vehicle, was rated "acceptable" and "not good" on head restraints and seat safety.

Tesla says that it implemented a production change to fix the seatbelt last week and that it now expects the vehicle to achieve the top rating. And a high-performance version of the Model S, the P100D, got a lower ranking on the roof strength test because its larger battery makes it much heavier, so the roof might not hold up as well in a rollover crash.

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Safety group gives top ratings to Volt, Prius Prime.

The Prius Prime is the plug-in version of the regular Prius hybrid, previously a Top Safety Pick Plus victor.

Tesla also earned a "poor" rating for its headlights.

With those criteria in mind, the IIHS reports that the Model S earned a rating of good in all of its evaluations, except for the small overlap front crash test, which simulates running into a narrow object. An optional front protection system, when fitted, nudges the i3 into the "advanced" rating.

IIHS plans to test another green vehicle, the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, once it becomes widely available later this year.

Tesla said that it made a production change on Jan 23 to address the deficiency and IIHS will test the updated vehicle as soon as the auto is delivered.

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