Tesla’s Low Reliability Marks Are Unlikely to Hurt in the Long Run

Source: Tesla
Source: Tesla

It wasn’t long ago that Consumer Reports raved about how Tesla broke its rating system during tests of the P85D, but for the second year in a row the publication’s readers hit the all-electric sedan on reliability. This time, it was bad enough that the CR team pulled its recommendation for the EV maker’s flagship ride, leading to drops in stock valuation and your usual howling in the media. Worse, several sources suggested reliability could plague Tesla for the foreseeable future. That seems like a stretch.

Consumer Reports took back its recommendation for the Model S after a reader survey involving 1,400 owners hit the electric car with below-average reliability. Despite its otherworldly test results, that was enough data for the testing company to be wary of the car in the long haul. Most problems revolved around the drivetrain, charging equipment, giant touchscreen console, and noisy components.

tesla model s
Source: Tesla

As Tesla stock took its mandatory dip after the October 20 news, CEO Elon Musk led the response by noting something Consumer Reports mentioned at the end of its negative notice — that 97% of Model S owners said they would buy another car from the Fremont-based automaker. (Musk called it “the acid test” in a tweet.) Yet the CR team also noted that mass-market offerings like the Model 3, expected in 2017, could face huge hurdles if reliability issues continue.

“It’s one thing to have a quirky, problematic car that sells 20,000 units per year to wealthy people [with a second car],” Mark Rechtin wrote. “It’s quite another when Tesla scales up to its 2020 projection of 200,000 U.S. Model 3 buyers, who may not have the luxury of being so forgiving.”

The problem with this line is it expects the worst from a company that has been obsessive about pleasing its customers. It also assumes Model 3 drivers would not have a backup car.


In fact, several Tesla owners reported getting their drivetrain replaced when they experienced continued troubles in the Consumer Reports survey, a guarantee under the four-year warranty. While these problems will become pricey once the warranty disappears, an up-and-coming force in the industry is unlikely to abandon its earliest buyers as more models enter the market.

Thilo Koslowski, automotive practice leader at Gartner Inc., told the LA Times he expected Tesla to “fix the issues and learn from them,” adding he didn’t see it hurting the automaker in the long term. Koslowski cited the loyalty of Model S owners as a harbinger of good things down the line.

We shouldn’t forget about the intent of the manufacturer, either. From the millions of recalls large-scale automakers notched from the ignition switch debacle to Dieselgate, we have learned that the biggest problems in recent memory were either intentional or known about and ignored in the effort to cut costs.

We’re pretty sure Tesla wouldn’t stoop to that level just when it got this good thing going. Let’s give the automaker a chance to build the car before we start attacking its reliability.

Source: Consumer Reports

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