Aug. 21, 2013— -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pushing back on Tesla Motors' claim that its Model S car had a crash test rating greater than five stars. The car, the agency says, was a stellar performer, but not off the scale as its manufacturer claims.
On Safercar.gov, the branch of NHTSA that specializes in car safety, the Tesla Model S scored five stars in all of the crash test categories: no less, and definitely no more.
"The agency's 5-Star Safety Ratings program is designed to provide consumers with information about the crash protection," NHTSA said in a statement. "NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star ratings." NHTSA also released several videos of the Tesla Model S crash tests.
The five-star rating system that NHTSA uses is based on the likelihood that a driver or passenger will be injured in an accident. NHTSA also provides additional measurements of safety, which according to a Tesla spokesperson, the company combined to produce the 5.4 star rating.
Clarence Ditlow, the director of the Center of Auto Safety, told ABC News that the Tesla Model S did earn very high marks on NHTSA's crash tests. However, he also says that Tesla Motors's spin on the score is misleading. "No matter what, you can't say it's the safest car ever tested, just that it had the best overall test score of any vehicle tested by NHTSA."
David Kerley, an ABC News reporter in Washington, contributed to this report.