The Tesla CEO was commenting on a side-impact pole crash test comparison between the Tesla Model 3 and the 2016 Volvo S60.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took a jab at Volvo while talking about safety features on the Tesla Model 3, his company's new entry-level electric car.
During a handover event at Tesla's factory in Fremont, California, Friday night, Musk showed a video that he said displayed side-by-side clips of a Model 3 and a 2016 Volvo S60 undergoing the same crash test.
The test is a type of side-impact crash simulation that mimics a car colliding sideways into a pole at 20mph which, in this test, would typically cause major damage to the driver-side door and a portion of the roof.
The video appeared to show that the Volvo S60, which achieved a five-star crash safety rating in all categories according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was damaged more severely than the Model 3.
"There's a lot of cars that say they're five-star — they are five-star — though that's not a scientific metric," Musk said. "Even something like the Volvo — great car. By normal standards, very safe. The Volvo is arguably the second-safest car in the world," he said, eliciting laughs and applause from the audience.
"It is obvious which car you would prefer to be in, in an accident."
There was some confusion about that test, after some internet commenters suggested the Volvo S60 was crashed at a higher speed than the Model 3. But the side-by-side comparison in the video above does appear to show two identical side-impact pole collisions occurring at 20mph according to NHTSA documentation, and Tesla confirmed in an email to Business Insider that the side-impact tests in the video were indeed the same.
Musk has made such a comparison in the past, hailing Tesla's crash safety as the best in the world, a statement that has caught the attention of some industry veterans because Volvos have a longstanding reputation for safety. The company even has a plan to eliminate crash deaths in its new cars by 2020.
The 90-year-old Swedish automaker was the first to install three-point seat belts in a car in 1959 and has achieved top ratings in crash-test categories for decades. Business Insider asked Volvo Cars US CEO Lex Kerssemakers last year for his take on Musk's ambition to have Tesla dethrone Volvo as the safest cars on the road.
"In the end, we need to create a society where 33,000 people aren't killed [in auto accidents] every year, so I can only encourage him in making safe cars," Kerssemakers said of the Tesla CEO. "I know which is the safest car company, and we’re not going to give that up," he said.
The Volvo executive said that ultimately he's not concerned with titles, saying vehicle safety is a long-term journey.
"It's not about "we've got to win this year and that year. We collect data from real-world accidents, and we've got a really good idea how cars react in different accident scenarios," Kerssemakers said.
Tesla has previously taken a less charitable view of Tesla crash-test results that were anything less than perfect — notably after a recent test of a Model S that received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) second-highest rating in a frontal collision.
Tesla hit back at the IIHS, suggesting the agency was motivated by "subjective purposes."