Most cars these days perform really well on crash tests.
Where they fall down in ratings from the IIHS is usually in either headlight performance or underperforming active safety features.
The IIHS confirmed on Wednesday via Twitter that updated headlights on the Tesla Model 3 received the Institute's highest "Good" rating, as first reported last week on TorqueNews.
The 2018 Tesla Model 3 now earns a good rating for its standard LED reflector headlights for models built after June 2018. Previous models earn an acceptable rating. https://t.co/EUWXFLBnkm pic.twitter.com/TOctSTGaAl— IIHS (@IIHS_autosafety) December 26, 2018
The car's active safety systems—the adaptive cruise control and active lane control included with Autopilot—also received the Institute's top Superior rating for such systems.
That means the two primary obstacles to the car becoming an IIHS Top Safety Pick have been met.
The IIHS has still not crash-tested the Model 3, so it has not yet earned the Top Safety Pick+ rating. If the car were to receive a lower rating in one of the IIHS crash tests: moderate- and small-overlap front tests, a side test, or a roof-strength test, or measurements of its head restraints, it would jeopardize the Top Safety Pick+ rating, which the Institute gives only to cars that perform well in all its tests.
When the IIHS first tested the Model 3's headlights back in May, its headlights earned only an Acceptable rating—not high enough to win the Model 3 a Top Safety Pick+. (No Tesla has yet earned a Top Safety Pick+ designation. The Model S scored the second-highest "Acceptable" rating on the Institute's difficult small-overlap front crash test, and its headlights were rated Poor—the lowest rating. The Model X has not been rated.)
Since then, Tesla has improved the Model 3's headlights to reach farther down the road and produce less glare, both of which improved their rating.
The new rating applies to Model 3s made since June. So far, Tesla hasn't found a way to give the car new headlight reflectors via an over-the-air software update.