Tesla’s Model 3 started right out of the gate with quality problems. Those seem to have subsided but there are other problems taking its place. Now that the 3 has been on the road we can get a better idea of what is facing owners as their Tesla ages.
From Bloomberg comes the largest survey ever of almost 5,000 Tesla Model 3 owners. Since 2017 Tesla has sold over 350,000 Model 3 sedans. Many of the initial production was plagued mainly by cosmetic defects like chipped paint and misaligned panels. Of course, there were also mechanical issues, but not nearly as many.
The worst period for Model 3 problems was the third quarter of 2018.
The worst period for defects was the third quarter of 2018. For every 100 Model 3s sold 80 had some issues. This coincides with Tesla ramping up production to almost 100,000 Model 3s per quarter. But in the third quarter of 2019 complaints dropped by 44% over the previous year. Yet, February 2019, was the worst single month for defects. Tesla recorded one defect per car.
By September of 2019 complaints went down to 35 issues per 100 cars sold. Most of them had to do with cosmetics. The paint was where most of the problems came from. Following that was irregular shut lines or gaps, and then scratches and dents.
A flawed exterior can be a harbinger of other problems. So, cosmetic issues can be bad optics for quality as a whole. As 2019 continued exterior defects continued to lessen, so it looks like Tesla is on track to raise quality levels substantially.
Problems with seat tracks, trim, squeaks or rattles
In the interior, there were problems also. Mostly these dealt with problems with the seats or seat tracks, trim, and squeaks or rattles. Also, scratches and dirt accumulation were also frequent complaints. Most trim or cosmetic issues were replaced immediately, sometimes with the work being done at the owner’s home or workplace.
When it came to electronics and climate controls and function, there was a similar amount of defects as seen with the exterior. Issues with backup cameras, touch screens, and solenoids or switches were handled immediately with replacement.
For drive system issues complaints fell off sharply from previous issues mentioned here. They mostly involved little problems with the charge port. Issues with the plug or door of the port were minor and fixed immediately by Tesla. A few of those surveyed had charging problems dealing with range, but in most of those cases, over-the-air fixes eliminated the problem.
The Model 3 survey rated the Tesla from current owners
Taken together, the survey asked how satisfied or dissatisfied the owners were. From a possible five points from “very satisfied” to “very dissatisfied” most owners came out at 4.6-4.8 scores for very satisfied. Without the ability to compare with other makes its hard to say where that falls in relation to other EV or ICE vehicles, but it seems impressive on its face.
Sometimes service and dealership relationships can negatively affect an owner’s satisfaction, and those were surveyed by Bloomberg as well. We’ll look at those in another post and link back to this one.
What we can say is that it seems the stories we heard about cosmetic defects when the 3 first came out were true. But it’s also evident that Tesla’s problems have decreased substantially since those early days.