Consumer Reports’ Tesla Model S Has Experienced “Many Minor Problems”

3 years ago by Eric Loveday 46

Consumer Reports Selects Tesla Model S as "Best Overall" Automobile of 2014

Consumer Reports Selects Tesla Model S as “Best Overall” Automobile of 2014

consumer-reports-logo_July_2010

Consumer Reports Says Its Tesla Model S Has “Many Minor Problems”

“A revolutionary car from an innovative automaker, the Tesla Model S has garnered much attention for its accomplishments as a ground-breaking, 21st-century car. For its impressive performance in our tests, strong safety marks, and decent reliability so far, the Model S earned Consumer Reports’ recommendation. But over the last 15,743 miles, our test car has developed many minor problems that merit some reflection.”

That’s the opening graph from Consumer Report’s latest Tesla Model S article titled “Consumer Reports’ Tesla Model S Has More Than It Share Of Problems” and subtitled “Chronicling Glitches in This Luxury Electric Car.”

What are those glitches? The Model S owned by Consumer Reports with 15,743 miles on the odometer has experienced the following problems:

  • For instance, we had a problem with the automatic-retracting door handles, which were occasionally reluctant to emerge from the coachwork so we could open the driver’s door. Tesla fixed that with an over-the-air programming update beamed to the car.
  • Just before the car went in for its annual service, at a little over 12,000 miles, the center screen went blank, eliminating access to just about every function of the car, including popping open the charge port. 
  • a creak emanating from the passenger side roof-pillar area, disassembling and refitting some trim panels.
  • One of the buckles for the removable third row had broken
  • replaced the front bumper carrier hardware
  • replaced our 12-volt battery, the HVAC filter housing, and the powertrain battery’s coolant pump
  • front trunk lid wasn’t responding to the release, which is a virtual button on the central screen
  • Tesla-supplied adapter for non-Tesla EV chargers come apart

Most all of these issues were handled under warranty at no cost.  And Consumer Reports praises the level of service Tesla provided, but wonders:

“Given the number of bits and pieces Tesla has replaced on our car, it might be tempting to guess that its reliability score will go down. The reality is, it might—depending on the frequency and severity of problems reported by our subscribers and whether they show that reliability is below average.”

“Along with the rest of the motoring world, we anxiously await the conclusions of our latest reliability analysis due this fall.”

The 2012-2013 Tesla Model S has an average reliability rating, according to Consumer Reports’ annual survey.  The new survey will be released this September and will include 2014 Model Year Tesla Model S sedans.

Source: Consumer Reports

Tags: , ,

46 responses to "Consumer Reports’ Tesla Model S Has Experienced “Many Minor Problems”"

  1. sven says:

    I’m glad to hear that they didn’t need a drivetrain or battery replacement like Edmunds’ and MotorTrend’s long-term test cars.

    1. bloter says:

      I never heard about battery replacement. That some drive unit had problems yes and even Elon Musk said was related with the first models produced that had some quality issues. Otherwise, all my friends that own a Model S are more than happy with the reliability, stupendous performance and NO FUELING AT ALL!

      1. srsf says:

        I humbly point out that electric fuel is STILL fuel. Recharging counts..

        1. Chris O says:

          No, electricity isn’t fuel, it’s what fuel gets turned into: energy. Proper definitions do count…

          It’s important because it means total flexibility in the choice of fuel sources.

        2. Fuel is a physical material that undergoes an chemical reduction reaction to produce heat, or power.

          A battery cell is an enclosed sealed system, no material added, or removed over its life cycle. The process of charging/discharging a battery cell only involves moving ions from one plate to another in the cell.

          Charging a cell is no different than adding energy to your body as you climb a flight of stairs; descending reduces the energy level … nothing consumed, nor excreted!

          While fuel may be required to create energy (in the form of moving electrons; electricity) to charge a battery … the process of charging does not require fuel. eg: using a fusion generator millions of millions of miles away (with its selfcontained fuel source) can be the source of energy as using the potential energy stored in a mass on a mountain. (ie: solar and hydro sources … non-chemical reactions can provide power for charging a battery just as well as burning “fuel” in chemical reactions)

  2. ffbj says:

    Reliance on the center console does have it drawbacks if it is not 100% reliable all the time. The other things I think of little consequence but certainly should be addressed, as even minor annoyances can turn people off.

    1. It is not possible to build a product that is 100% reliable.

      A product can be engineered to provide 99.9…9% reliability for a constrained period of time. Engineers can design for more or less 9’s or change the period of time that reliability use of a product can be anticipated, but never make something “100% reliable”.

      As technologies and produces mature over time the level of reliability increases for the manufactures warranty period.

      If you are expecting 100% reliability, expect to be disappointed 100% of the time. It’s a fact of life!

  3. DonC says:

    Wow, what a surprise. Nice to see the guys at CR woke up and smelled the coffee. If the Model S isn’t the least reliable car in America, it’s close. That’s been clear for quite a while to anyone with an internet connection and a browser.

    Not surprising. Making cars is hard and Tesla doesn’t have a lot of experience. Plus Musk is clueless about and has no time for the time consuming processes needed for higher quality.

    The good thing is that this may not matter as long as people love their cars and are pleased with the service. It also doesn’t hurt that many high end luxury brands are known more for their high maintenance costs than their reliability.

    1. Alonso Perez says:

      I don’t think Musk is clueless. I think he has to thread a line between product cadence and testing. Tesla simply could not stop for two years to exhaustively test every feature of the Model S in statistically meaningful quantities.
      So they took a software approach. Ramp was slow partly for this reason. Early buyers were essentially beta testers. Because of the nature of the car and the company, most did so knowingly. They were happy to help Tesla get started.
      Some of the early buyers may not have fully understood this, and may be upset at the various issues. But it was unavoidable. There was no economically viable way to do this otherwise. Tesla had to thread the needle.
      According to Musk most of the issues were solved within the first year of production, so current cars should be fine. CR reliability ratings should reflect this over time.

    2. HVACman says:

      Tesla will figure it out. Musk also builds rockets, which is a a whole other level QC-wise, especially when they go to manned launches.

      1. Even with rockets some types of failures in components are expected in normal operation. The point of engineering is to ensure that failures don’t become a safety issues.

        eg: One of nine rocket engines failing on a launch of Falcon9 rocket, but SpaceX was able to meet customer expectation by delivering the payload to International Space Station with minor adjustments in course. (has happened)

        Examples of unacceptable failures … a window switch that shorts out, an airbag that doesn’t go off, an ignition switch that doesn’t lock, … the list of safety defects is longer that it should be.

        The good news … Consumer Reports found no potential safety related problems with the Model S.

        1. See Through says:

          Don’t think consumer reports checked for safety issues. There are some reports on nhtsa.gov though. Also, blank driving console while driving can hardly be called safe.

          What do you call safety issues? Like, the car catching fire or blowing itself up when you try to unlocck it? Edmunds’ car conked in the freeway.

          1. Omar Sultan says:

            Enlighten us, See Through: what is the safety issue with a blank center console?

    3. CherylG says:

      There’s a reason CR added the 2013 Model S to their list of “cars to avoid.”

      George Clooney must be laughing pretty hard.

      1. kdawg says:

        Something smells. You guys smell that?

        1. Rick Danger says:

          Sniff… yeah… smells like Troll Breath. Ewwwwww!

        2. See Through says:

          It’s Elon and Tesla fans peeing their pants in fear 🙂

    4. DougH2 says:

      DonC sounds like you are the clueless one. I’ve driven my Model S since June 21, 2013. I have 69,000+ miles on it. I’ve driven it in temperatures ranging from 100 degrees (Atlanta) to -17 degrees (Chicago, Jan 14). I’m from Detroit and grew up working in my father’s auto repair shop; so I know cars. My Model S is, by far, the best car I’ve ever driven.

  4. kdawg says:

    Growing pains… I hope they get up to the level of quality of the major OEMs by 2017 when the Model III is out. The “newness” of Tesla is really the only thing that may hold me back from purchasing.

    1. Scramjett says:

      “Growing pains…”

      Thank you for the much more reasonable explanation than DonC’s. That was my thought as well. When I bought my first car, one thing I was told “never buy a new or newly redesigned model.” Tesla should have most of this worked out by 2017/18 when the Model III is out, but I probably will wait for the Model III’s second year in production.

      1. kdawg says:

        I did the same thing w/the Volt. I bought a 2013 even though I followed the car since it was shown in Detroit.

        My target date is 2018/2019 to buy something new. So hopefully Tesla (and GM) have several thousand of their latest plug-ins out by then.

  5. GeorgeS says:

    My Volt has NEVER had to go to the dealer.

    1. MDEV says:

      neither my Tesla

      1. Big Solar says:

        mine either (except to upgrade the underbody shield)

    2. bluemerle says:

      My volt has been to dealer at least 15 times for warranty work. They even gave me a $250 gift certificate for my troubles without me asking on the 16th time! It’s a 2012 with 60K miles on it. All problems happened within the first year and first 20K miles. I’m going in today bc a some metal cover is hanging down from under the car, the bolts fell put to hold it up. I have had a rental car at least 8 times from these problems.

      1. SIvad says:

        Sorry to hear you’ve had so much trouble. I’m coming up on 20K on my Volt and am ready to take it in for the first time. I have to get the oil changed.

      2. kdawg says:

        Now we know why you are blue 🙂

        I’m almost to 20K miles… still haven’t changed the oil yet. Just 1 free tire rotation.

      3. See Through says:

        This is pretty good! Edmunds’ Model S went 26 times to service center in a year and 30K miles! And had the battery replaced, and the motors replaced 3 times!
        Compared to that, your 60K experience still seems wonderful. I assume, your Volt is also an early model car.

    3. Scramjett says:

      After reading yours, MDEVs, and bluemerle’s responses, I’m thinking that the majority will have few, if any problems, while the minority will have some problems and a smaller minority will have a lot. That sounds pretty typical of the automotive world to me.

    4. IDK says:

      My Prius Gen 3 has been to dealership lots of times. It has the cold start engine rattle, interior rattles and creaks. They put out a TSB for the engine rattle and it still happens. Toyota doesn’t try to fix the engine rattle issue anymore since they can’t. Post anything about it on their FB or Twitter feed and it’s removed immediately. I’ll take a Tesla any day over a Toyota.

    5. quartzav says:

      My 2013 Volt does have quite a few minor problems that needs dealer visits while my 2012 doesn’t need any visit to dealers except for the regular services.

    6. Mikael says:

      I’m pretty sure that there are not many Teslas that have had to go to the dealer either… 😉

  6. Assaf says:

    Well, this is the part that *does* usually takes decades of high-volume manufacturing experience.

    Tesla has shown itself to be a quickly-learning organization, so hopefully reliability will improve by the time Gen III (or however they name it now) rolls out.

  7. Mike says:

    Wife’s Ford Escape 2012 recalled 7 times.

    1. Big Solar says:

      i can believe that. heck, every german car owner i know has to take their “car” to the dealer about once a month for something else going wrong with them!

  8. ffbj says:

    Diagnosis:

  9. Taser54 says:

    Interesting how Tesla fans are now admitting that the Model S was a beta product. Months ago they were adamant that it wasn’t. I guess the facts have finally convinced them.

    1. kdawg says:

      I consider myself a Tesla fan, but not sure why you mean by didn’t consider it a beta project? Or how that could be shown. I’d say it’s whatever comes after Beta (Gamma?) I think the Roadster was the true beta product. Now Tesla is learning how to mass produce cars. In the beginning, they had to go to Detroit for help/advice. I know they are using Detroit integrators to set up their plants/lines.

    2. CherylG's_DirtyLittleSecret says:

      They stood fast and quiet because most are stock holders…..lol

      There’s also the “Milling” sound. It’s what prompts the replacement of the drive train.

  10. CherylG's_DirtyLittleSecret says:

    All repairs under warranty?
    So what the big deal?
    It’s a new product from a new Auto company. Did they expect 100% flawless everything?

    Even the Big auto manufacturers still have problems and how long have they been around?

  11. Fabian says:

    I don’t think any of those issues mentioned are show stoppers for buying this car. If Tesla fixes them without cost to the owner, and they also provide a loaner to your doorstep, then I say it’s OK.

    Things happen, things breakdown. We’re not talking about Fires or dead Traction batteries, like some other EVs have had.

    1. See Through says:

      The car conking in the middle of freeways sure is! The driving console going blank sure is.

  12. TL says:

    So Tesla, a new auto company, on their second released model has experienced some glitches, none safety-related, which required some patches and fixes all covered under warranty. This on a car which was rated top in safety by both CR and the NHTSA. If only we held all auto makers to such a standard.

    1. GSP says:

      That sums up the situation nicely! 🙂

      GSP

  13. Bill Howland says:

    Just got done with 10 hours with the Tesla service Roadster Expert. (Apparently all the other Roadster people have quit and their really arent that many tesla employees familiar with the Roadster anymore.

    The good news. I will eventually get my heater fixed. And he did fix my ripped sil plate.

    The Not so bad news. A model S when it starts making noise will not wear out but just continue to make a little noise and the gear box still has a lot of life left in it. So my previous post about it ‘tearing up gearboxes’ was apparently too harsh.. I stand corrected.

    One things for sure: Don’t let a hammer mechanic work on your car, because the guy I just spent 10 hours with trying to fix the problems makes it very difficult when you’re not sure exactly what cables have been pulled. We did find one connector on the Power Electronics Module that had a bent pin due to the HM (Hammer mechanic), but since the car has lots of connectors its hard to check all of them, and takes a lot of time.

    We replaced the PEM but the new one was defective, so more hours were involved putting my original back in.

    It was his honest opinion that the Model S is actually pretty tolerable a car and that the little problems Tesla will eventually fix. Ill go with that.

    As far as my inoperative heater goes, he’s coming back (so he says) in 2 weeks with everything but the kitchen sink and will have everything necessary to rebuild a new heater until the thing works… I have to admit that’s pretty good service.

  14. RedLeafBlueLeaf says:

    After reading this I reflected that in a combined 3 years of driving our two LEAFs (a 2011 and a 2012) we’ve had only one warranty repair – the heating coil went out in the 2012. I do hear that the 2013’s and later have had more trouble, but in retrospect that’s a damn good record for a totally new car.

    No fair responding by mentioning crash test results ….