Maybe major car makers like Ford and Toyota could learn a thing or two from tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. His electric car company, Tesla, is racking up recognition in the auto industry for the level of quality of its vehicles. The latest: Tesla's Model S was awarded the highest safety rating of any car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Not only did the Model S receive a 5-star rating overall but also in every subcategory. While the NHTSA doesn't award more than 5 stars overall, it does in the overall Vehicle Safety, where Tesla says the Model S achieved a combined record of 5.4 stars. The score takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents, Tesla says.
In May, Consumer Reports also gave the Model S a glowing assessment, calling it the best car it has tested. The Model S was also named car of the year by Motor Trend and Automobile magazines.
Tesla released the Model S electric sedan in June 2012 after three years in development. For those who are unfamiliar with the car, it has two battery options: an 85-kilowatt-hour version and a 60-kilowatt-hour version. The larger battery gets 300 miles of range at an average of 55 mph, Tesla says. It estimates that total annual fuel cost for a Model S is about $930 compared to almost $5,200 for other premium sedans, for drivers who average about 30,000 miles per year.
When it comes to safety, Tesla says some of the key features of the Model S include: a longer "crumple zone" in the front created by the absence of a large gasoline engine block (the motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted near the rear axle), multiple aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that help absorb crash impact and a double rear bumper if a third row children's seat is ordered.
"After verifying through internal testing that the Model S would achieve a NHTSA 5-star rating, Tesla then analyzed the Model S to determine the weakest points in the car and retested at those locations until the car achieved 5 stars no matter how the test equipment was configured," the company said in a release.
Keep in mind, however, that safety and environmentally-friendly innovation don't come cheap. A Model S with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery starts at more than $78,000.