Consumer Reports: Model S reliability doesn’t measure up to its performance

Tesla Model S (C) ChargedEVs

Can this be true? Consumer Reports, which published a glowing review of Model S in 2013, and again in August, calling it “the best-performing car we’ve ever tested,” now says that it is dropping the Tesla sedan from its list of recommended vehicles.

Only models with above-average reliability make the recommended list, and CR was forced to give the S a below-average rating after a survey of some 1,400 Model S owners revealed “an array of detailed and complicated maladies.”

There was a wide range of problem areas, including the drivetrain, power equipment, charging equipment, the center console, and various annoying squeaks, rattles and leaks. Complaints about the drive system have increased as the cars have aged. Several electric motors have had to be replaced, and Tesla’s famous door handles sometimes fail to present themselves, locking drivers out.

There is a silver lining, however. So far, most of the problems fall under Tesla’s four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty (and eight-year/unlimited mileage battery and drivetrain warranty), and owners report that they are being fixed quickly and efficiently.

“Almost every survey respondent made note of Tesla’s rapid response and repair time, despite the lack of a traditional dealer service network. For its early adopters, Tesla has made a practice of over-delivering on service problems under the factory warranty.”

Tesla owner satisfaction “remains at the top of the industry.” 97% of owners said they would definitely buy their car again.

CR also pointed out that “when automakers roll out new technology…it often has a deleterious effect on vehicle reliability. Tesla is not only the poster child for a new type of high-performance, high-mileage EV, but it also has been adding complex new variations…so it’s not surprising to see problems continue to crop up.”

Many a marketing maven has noted that product problems, if corrected quickly and responsively, can actually increase brand loyalty in the long run, so Tesla may yet turn these lemons into a palatable beverage. The stock market seems to agree: TSLA stock took a hit when the news was announced, falling around 10 percent, but had recovered about half that loss by the end of the day.

On the other hand, Consumer Reports added a couple of cautionary notes for the future. Once those Model S warranties expire, high repair costs may be a concern. And Tesla had better get a handle on its reliability issues before it launches the lower-cost, higher-volume Model 3. “It’s one thing to have a quirky, problematic car that sells 20,000 units per year to wealthy people…It’s quite another when Tesla scales up to 200,000 Model 3 buyers, who may not have the luxury of being so forgiving.”

 

Source: Consumer Reports