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Tesla Claim of Outdoing Safety Ratings Met With Skepticism

Detroit — Debate about Tesla’s claims about its electric car’s safety score and performance in a roof crush test continued to swirl days after the automaker made its claims.

Most automakers brag about receiving a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But billionaire and Tesla Motors Inc. co-founder Elon Musk went further.

“Model S achieves best safety rating of any car ever tested by US govt,” Musk tweeted earlier this week.

The electric car maker said in a news release this week that the Tesla S “set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants,” with a combined score of 5.4 stars and exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans.

But NHTSA said in its statement that its highest score is 5.

“The driving public should know that NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories,” the agency said in a statement posted on its website this week.

NHTSA did not name Tesla in its statement but said automakers should follow its guidelines when the companies make claims about the safety results.

Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, Mich., said Tesla is on thin ice with its claims.

“You don’t say what the government doesn’t say, using government data,” Hall said. “(NHTSA) doesn’t rate vehicles above than 5, and somebody at Tesla should have caught that.”

The Model S is an all-electric luxury sedan car with a base price of about $60,000, after a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Tesla also said during validation of Model S roof crush protection at an independent commercial site, the testing machine failed after it was unable to crush the roof. The company has not identified who conducted those tests.

Musk also boasted about the roof crush test results in an interview on CBS This Morning Wednesday.

“When we did the roof crush test, it got to four times the weight of the car, and then the machine broke,” Musk told CBS.