Last year electric car maker Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) received a cease-and-desist letter from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to comply with agency guidelines about the safety of their Model 3 sedan. The carmaker was subsequently subpoenaed by the agency over information on a number of crashes according to documents posted by PlainSite.

Tesla gave misleading statements on Model 3 sedan

The NHTSA indicated in a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk that the company had provided misleading statements regarding its Model 3 sedan. The assertion that the car had the lowest chances of injury of any car ever tested by the agency were far from true and were inconsistent the usage guidelines of the agency.

The NHTSA holds that the assertions from the company contravened the agency’s advertising guidelines about crash ratings. The regulator has asked the Federal Trade Commission to probe the statement on whether they constituted deceptive or unfair practices.

Model 3 cars involved in several crashes

According to the NHTSA this is not the first time the company has disregarded its guidelines in a way that can lead to deception of consumers and thus giving the carmaker an unfair market edge. The documents posted by PlainSite were gotten through the Freedom of Information Act request and they also include information orders that the NHTSA sent to the company after a number of accidents including the March 1 fatal crash that involved a Model 3 sedan that was running on autopilot.

Former NHTSA enforcement attorney and independent auto-safety consultant Allan Kam indicated that if the company was subpoenaed then it will capture Tesla’s attention immediately because that is not a normal matter. He adds that such a matter is promptly dealt with and in a much more serious manner. There has been no comment on the matter from either the company, FTC or the regulator.

In October the agency gave a statement that took exception with the company’s characterization of the NHTSA’s safety ratings. The regulator indicated that crash test usually aggregate into the general safety rating and for that matter they do not rank vehicles that have similar ratings.