It’s hard to believe that the Tesla Model X will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. The automaker introduced the electric SUV in 2015 with much fanfare, with CEO Elon Musk declaring it the world's safest SUV and revealing the signature falcon wing doors to admiration and applause from the audience. Initial reports on the EV were flowery. Wired called it “awesome,” “futuristic,” and that Tesla was “once again redefining the electric vehicle” after doing so with the Model S. 

However, few could foresee the issues these complicated doors, along with various other components of the EV, would cause down the line. And those issues continue today, according to accounts from new owners. 

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Tesla Model X quality issues persist.

Tesla proved that electric SUVs can be manufactured at scale and they can be incredibly cool. But after launch, the Model X was immediately plagued with build quality problems and issues with the complex door design that don't seem to have been solved even a decade later.

Gallery: 2023 Tesla Model X

New owners have flocked to online forums in recent months complaining of several problems with what is nearly a ten-year-old EV. Issues such as gaping panel gaps and door malfunctions that were present nine years ago appear to exist even today.

One owner reported a disappointing Father’s Day delivery experience for a brand new 2024 Model X Plaid. The delivery personnel handed him the EV with dirty shoe prints on the mats, dirty seats and grease and fingerprints on the windows.

What triggered him was much more serious. “As I was closing up all the doors to drive off, the passenger falcon door wouldn't close all the way,” he said on Reddit. “They came out and ran diagnostics/calibration. They couldn't figure out the issue and sent me a service appointment. They advised me not to open that door until it is serviced."

 

Another 2023 Model X owner claimed to have so many issues that Tesla agreed to a buyback. He took delivery of the EV with paint chips and several trim misalignments. One owner reported selling his two-year-old Model X to move to a Rivian R1S. He initially loved the electric SUV, but later realized that Tesla had “cut many corners” and it’s cheaply made.

Early EVs, particularly those manufactured by startups, often exhibit common problems related to build quality. In 2015, Tesla was still refining its production processes. Despite flaunting cool features, the company faced pressure to scale up rapidly, causing quality control to take a back seat.

Over time, it seemed as though Teslas were steadily improving. The company added a Long Range Model X that improved the 250-mile standard range to over 300 miles and performance too got a substantial bump with the insane tri-motor Plaid model.

The Model 3 and Y also faced prolonged quality issues regarding paint, panel gaps and general fit and finish initially. But those improved over the years and it's possible that Model X, which has been in production much longer, didn’t get nearly as much attention as the Model 3 and Model Y.

In another instance, YouTuber Silicon Valley Girl recently reported that the outer layer of her Model X’s yoke steering was peeling away. After waiting for four months for a service appointment, she finally handed the car over for a steering replacement. The service center said the steering decay was a known issue.

When she got the car back after two days, Tesla only ran a bunch of software updates but didn’t replace the steering, citing unavailability. “You have to fight for everything if you have a Tesla. Fight for a decent service. Fight for them to keep their promises,” she said in the video.

Tesla Model X steering yoke poor quality

Image: Silicon Valley Girl (YouTube)

The Model X is a fitting example of people’s appetite for cool features like the bioweapon defense mode that can apparently filter out dangerous viruses and the fancy falcon doors that can also dance, but also an example of how allergic owners are to basic quality and service issues.

Consumer Reports gave the 2018 Model X a reliability score of 5/100. The 2022 version improved only slightly to 14/100. CR doesn’t have the reliability scores of direct competitors yet, but a BMW iX, for example, has a predicted reliability score of 59/100 whereas the Kia EV9 scored 48/100—not the best but far better than the Model X.

Here are some common problems documented by owners on online forums and complied by CR:

Of course, there are plenty of satisfied owners out there who love their Model X. For an EV that starts at just under $78,000 (before taxes, fees and tax credits) and goes all the way up to $93,000 for the insanely fast Plaid version, the sales numbers don’t look that bad. Tesla sold over 5,600 units in Q1 2024, down 13% compared to last year, according to Cox Automotive. In the whole of 2023, Tesla sold 23,015 Model Xs.

Rivian, on the other hand, sold many more units of the rival R1S. In the first quarter of 2024, 8,017 units of the R1S found new homes whereas 24,783 units were sold in 2023.

Year Model X Sales (Cox Auto data)
2020 7,375
2021 22,546
2022 26,121
2023 23,015

None of this is meant to diminish the Model X's importance. Along with the Model S, it once put Tesla on the global map and seems to be a solid profit-making machine for the brand.

But a barrage of rival EVs is beginning to erode Tesla's market share. In the U.S., that has already declined from 61% of new EV sales in Q1 2023 to 51% in Q1 2024. Meanwhile, Kia is ramping up the production of the EV9, Rivian began deliveries of the heavily updated R1S earlier this month and the upcoming U.S.-made Volvo EX90 shows great promise.

Above all, as Tesla shifts its focus to advancing its self-driving ambitions with artificial intelligence and mass-deploying robotaxis, the Model X's future—and how its lingering quality concerns might be resolved—remains extremely uncertain.

Contact the author: suvrat.kothari@insideevs.com

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