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Tesla Dropped From S&P 500 ESG Index Following Autopilot Investigations

Allegations of racial discrimination were also among the reasons cited for Tesla's fall from the index.

OGI Tesla Supercharger
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Tesla was deemed ineligible for the S&P 500 ESG Index during its annual rebalance, an S&P Dow Jones Indices executive said Tuesday. 

The ESG Index evaluates companies' performance in handling environmental, social and governance matters, assigning each company a score. The companies with the highest scores relative to others in their industry group appear on the S&P 500 ESG, a list for investors' consideration. 

This is separate from the standard S&P 500, which is an index of 500 of the largest publicly traded companies in the US. Tesla remains on the S&P 500. 

Tesla dropped off the list for several reasons, said Margaret Dorn, head of ESG Indices for North America in a Tuesday blog post. While Tesla's score on the ESG index has remained largely stable year over year, other companies in the automobile industry made improvements and pushed Tesla out of the index by comparison. 

"While Tesla may be playing its part in taking fuel-powered cars off the road, it has fallen behind its peers when examined through a wider ESG lens," Dorn wrote. 

Among the contributing factors, Dorn cited Tesla's handling of allegations of racial discrimination and poor working conditions at its Fremont factory, along with the company's handling of a federal investigation into its autopilot vehicles following injuries and deaths. 

A series of crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot driver assist system and parked emergency-response vehicles has triggered an ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency is investigating at least 11 incidents in which Teslas have slammed into roadside police cars and fire trucks while operating on Autopilot. At least 17 injuries and one fatality resulted from these crashes.

The federal watchdog sent a letter to Tesla on Aug. 31, 2021, to let the automaker know it wants to learn how Tesla's system operates, including how it detects and reacts to objects in the road, as well as how the tech monitors drivers and keeps them engaged with the act of driving. In early 2022, federal authorities also announced an investigation into hundreds of reports of phantom braking -- unexpected random braking applications when Autopilot is enabled.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk pushed back on news that Tesla didn't make the list, saying the ESG is a "scam."

Tesla didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. The automaker no longer operates a public relations department that would typically field such requests.