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Tesla Model S tops satisfaction survey, safety probe notwithstanding

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks next to the company's newest Model S during the Model S Beta Event held at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California ...
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks next to the company's newest Model S during the Model S Beta Event held at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California October 1, 2011.STEPHEN LAM / Reuters

Tesla's Model S, the focus of a federal investigation, has topped the latest owner satisfaction survey from Consumer Reports (CR).

In the annual survey of new car buyers Model S owners gave the electric car a rating of 99 out of 100. Consumer Reports said the near-perfect score is the highest a vehicle has received in several years.

The Model S finished ahead of the Porsche Boxster – the runner-up – and the Chevy Volt, which finished third with a rating of 91. The Volt topped the CR owner satisfaction survey in 2011 and 2012.

Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports said, "In testing, the Model S stands out for its innovative design, outstanding performance, and surprising practicality. These results suggest Tesla owners are very, very satisfied."

The survey is based upon the review of approximately 350,000 vehicles covering model years 2011 through 2014.

No time frame for Model S investigation

Topping the CR survey is welcome news for Tesla, coming just a few days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation into the safety of the Model S.

NHTSA is looking into whether a design flaw in the electric car contributed to a pair of battery fires in the last two months. In both cases, Model S vehicles caught fire after the cars drove over and hit metal objects in the road. There were no injuries in either incident.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show Tuesday, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told CNBC there's no time frame for how long the investigation will take.

"We want to get this done right. Sometimes investigations take a handful of weeks, sometimes they take several months," said Strickland. "I have no real indication of how long this will take but with Tesla willing to be very proactive in helping us, hopefully it will be on the shorter end."

Strickland also said NHTSA decided independently to launch the Model S investigation and did not do so at the invitation of Tesla. That point counters the assertions of Tesla CEO Elon Musk who said his company asked NHTSA to open an investigation so it can clear up any questions about the safety of the Model S.

Strickland said that once NHTSA contacted Tesla about its decision to open an investigation, the electric car company invited Federal investigators to do whatever is necessary as part of the probe.

Tesla stock still sliding

Since the first Model S battery fire just outside of Seattle on October 1, Tesla shares have dropped more than 30 percent and the company has lost over $9 billion in market value since hitting a high of $194.50 in September.

Despite the sell-off, Tesla shares are still up more than 250 percent in 2013.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

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