Small and startup companies often resort to attention-getting publicity to further their causes.

Occasionally they get their wrist slapped for overreaching.

And that's what happened to Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] yesterday.

In a statement both on its website and the site, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rare counter to a Tesla press release that had touted the uniformly five-star safety ratings of its Model S electric sport sedan.

In its very first paragraph, Tesla's Monday release said:

NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars.

The NHTSA's response yesterday, in part, said:

NHTSA does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories. In addition, the agency has guidelines in place for manufacturers and advertising agencies to follow to ensure that accurate and consistent information is conveyed to the public.

In other words: "Hey, Tesla, that 'combined record of 5.4 stars'? Ain't no such thing--and, by the way, please read our guidelines on fair practices for citing our ratings."

This isn't actually the first time that Tesla's overreached in its marketing and public relations.

Its first attempt at a cost calculator to show how cheap it would be to "lease" a Tesla Model S--the program was actually a sort of modified financing agreement--was ruthlessly dissected and widely ridiculed, leading Tesla to alter it a few weeks later.

On the other hand, Tesla's a Silicon Valley startup.

Its corporate culture seems to include disregarding various rules and practices it doesn't like.

For instance, the company announced in its most recently quarterly earnings report that it will start reporting its financial results using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)--which it hasn't done until now--just like other publicly-traded companies.

What's your favorite Tesla overreach?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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