The National Highway Transportation Safety Association has taken Tesla to task, sending the electric carmaker a cease-and-desist letter regarding Tesla's claims about the federal agency's safety rating of the Model 3 sedan.
"This is not the first time that Tesla has disregarded the guidelines in a manner that may lead to consumer confusion and give Tesla an unfair market advantage", Jonathan Morrison, chief counsel at NHTSA, wrote in an October 17 letter addressed to Musk.
It is incomprehensible from the documents if NHTSA or the FTC is following action against Tesla at this moment.
Joe Young, a media relations associate for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), demonstrates a front crash prevention test on a 2018 Tesla Model 3 at the IIHS-HLDI Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia, U.S., July 22, 2019.
An FTC spokesman said only that "investigations are non-public, and we don't comment on ... the existence of an investigation".
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Lost in the back and forth is the fact that Tesla's crash test results are legitimately outstanding. As part of its evaluation process, the NHTSA calculates a number called a vehicle safety score, which the agency has characterized as "relative risk of injury".
The NHTSA said Tesla's claims violated its advertising guidelines regarding the use of its test results.
A federal safety regulator demanded last fall that Tesla stop claiming the Model 3 is the safest auto ever tested.
Tesla has for years boasted about the flawless 5-star safety ratings its cars have received from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Tesla has yet to comment about this latest issue involving the safety ratings of the Model 3.
Data on driver engagement that is included in Tesla's communications with NHTSA point to a similar issue, said David Friedman, a former deputy administrator at NHTSA during the Obama administration, who's now vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports.
Owners continue to be frustrated by the issue as one Orlando, Florida owner, Nick Smith, notes Tesla has been hard to reach by phone and by email.