Tesla Met Its Model 3 Production Goal. Now Comes the Quality Test

View of Tesla Model 3 in Chelsea, NYC show room
Tesla is on a roll with Model 3 production, but quantity doesn’t mean quality. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When it came to quality, Tesla had problems with Model 3 right off the bat. Word about the vehicle’s subpar standards began reaching consumers early in 2018.

Meanwhile, the electric car maker’s production pace made headlines on almost a daily basis. By the end of June, there was a reality TV-character to the automaker’s push for 5,000 Model 3s per week. (Not to spoil things, but Tesla made it.)

While that in itself was a huge accomplishment (promptly rewarded on Wall Street), the proof will be in the performance of vehicles from this high-volume batch. Tesla still has to validate the quality of these pricey Model 3s now firing off the line.

Tesla’s production milestone met

In the early morning hours of July 1, Tesla closed out its second quarter by producing its 5,000th Model 3 of the week. That report came from factory sources who spoke with Reuters, CNBC reported.

Later in the day, Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke of just how far his Fremont team pushed the envelope at the quarter’s close.

Goals were kept, Musk said. | Elon Musk via Twitter

Musk’s figure included about 2,000 units of the Model S sport sedan and Model X performance SUV.

However, now that the company met its biggest production milestone to date, customer feedback will let us know just how successful this last-minute push was.

Model 3 owners still reporting issues

Exterior of the new Tesla Model 3, at the 2017 LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on November 29, 2017.
Tesla Model 3 | Getty Images/AFP/ Mark Ralston

Checking in on the Tesla Model 3 Owners Club on July 2, it was clear the automaker’s quality problems were far from settled. Owners replied to at least 17 threads over the previous three-day period.

Among the problems reported, here are a few of the highlights:

  • “Trunk stuck”
  • “Glovebox won’t unlock.”
  • “Steering wheel vibration.”
  • “Rear AC vent not blowing cold air.”
  • Loose panels

Several of these problems came in following late-June deliveries. Others dated back to May and earlier in June. In one instance, a headlight problem dating back to September 2017 remained unresolved at the start of July 2018.

Lessons from Model S and Model X

While most journalists (and drivers) agree the Tesla Model S is one of the best vehicles on the U.S. auto market, its early reliability ratings left much to be desired.

In 2013, Consumer Reports gave it its lowest possible rating. The following year, owner feedback and testing data led to another below-average verdict for the car. It took until 2018 for the nonprofit testing agency to predict above-average reliability for Model S.

Model X, its crossover counterpart, fared even worse since its first Consumer Reports rating (2016). That year, it registered a poor reliability score (1 on a scale of 1-to-5). Since that date, Model X has not improved.

In fact, when Consumer Reports rounded up its least reliable models of 2018, Model X was the worst of the bunch.

As Musk and others (including Consumer Reports) have pointed out, Model 3 has a simpler design than its predecessors. However, Tesla has yet to produce a car that did not come flawed in large numbers from the date of delivery.

With a massive influx of the latest Teslas hitting the streets, we’ll have to see how they perform — especially considering they all cost more than $50,000.

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