Tesla Model S is rated the safest car of all time

Tesla Model S, via Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors has had a lot to crow about the past few months; since it surprised everyone by reaching profitability, its stock has soared enough to join the Nasdaq 100.

Now, there's even stronger news, as Tesla says its Model S has been rated as the safest car ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration scored the car as an unheard-of 5 stars in every category (only 1 percent of cars). In fact, the car scored so high that the final, combined score beats 5 stars. Its final 5.4 rating — representing a Vehicle Safety Score provided to carmakers — is the highest ever. That would make the electric car the safest on the road, including vans and SUVs. The score represents the probability of reduced injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.

There's good reason for that, says Tesla. Since an electric car doesn't have a big gasoline engine under the hood, there's a much longer "crumple zone" to absorb high speed impact from the front.

The Model S motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, and the front section that would normally contain a gasoline engine is used for a second trunk.

Electric is also an advantage in rollover collisions. Because the battery pack is mounted below the floor pan, it provides a very low center of gravity, which simultaneously ensures exceptional handling and safety. During testing, the car refused to roll over using standard methods, says Tesla.

Tesla, the best performing automaker this year, has seen its shares jump to $147, up almost 300 percent so far in 2013.

Consumer Reports gave the Model S their highest rating for a luxury sedan, 99 out of 100 points, and it won the coveted "Car of the Year" award from Motor Trend magazine.

In related news, the California New Car Dealers Association reports that hybrid cars comprise 7 percent of all car sales in the state, with 59,300 sold in the first half of 2013 (up from 4.8 percent in 2011).

Electric cars are out-selling plug-in hybrids with 1.1 percent of the market (9,708 sold) this year, and Tesla took 0.6 percent of all new light-duty vehicles in California, with 4714 sold in the first half of 2013.

The Model S ranks third in the luxury and sports segment this year, lagging only the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series, according to California Auto Outlook.

This story has been updated with details about the Vehicle Safety Score. 

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