Poor Reliability Means Tesla Model S Is No Longer Consumer Reports’ Best Overall Car

FEB 29 2016 BY MARK KANE 51

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Consumer Reports recently released “Which Car Brands Make the Best Vehicles?” rank with 30 entries.

Audi won the list followed by Subaru, Lexus, Porsche and BMW in the Top 5.

Not all brands were included and especially Tesla, which often has picked-up top accolades from Consumer Reports.  The Tesla was missing on the list, but lack of data was cited as the reason:

“Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Maserati, Ram, Smart, and Tesla lack sufficient data. “

However, Tesla Model S reliability problems, which first forced CR to drop its recommendation, now seems to be preventing the car from taking another best overall vehicle title after wins in 2014 and 2015. In fact, Consumer Reports has decided to just go ahead and not make a top pick – which is a bit odd.

“Tesla’s Model S electric car was named Consumer Report’s best overall car in 2014 and 2015, but this year the magazine opted not to name any best overall vehicle.”

Tesla Motors says that it has worked hard recently to improve reliability, but it will take some time to see it translate in the stats if true.

Bjørn Nyland is on the third drive unit on its Tesla Model S P85

Bjørn Nyland is on the third drive unit on its Tesla Model S P85 (see Model S issues & repairs from delivery through present – Video)

According to Reuters, the Tesla Model S is now behind some other models, despite software updates brings new features:

“Jake Fisher, director of auto testing, said because of faltering reliability scores, the Model S is no longer the top ultra luxury car and ranks behind the BMW 750i xDrive, Lexus LS 460L and Audi A8 L. He said Tesla’s quality problems including issues with hatches, door handles, electric motors and batteries have increased as the automaker has ramped up production.

“They are having issues and they need to work that out before they introduce new models,” Fisher said.”

Which Car Brands Make the Best Vehicles? (source: Consumer Reports)

Which Car Brands Make the Best Vehicles? (source: Consumer Reports)

source: Consumer Reports and Reuters

Categories: Tesla

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51 Comments on "Poor Reliability Means Tesla Model S Is No Longer Consumer Reports’ Best Overall Car"

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Well, at least you can get it to a service center free under warranty as was the deal with my Roadster, at least until Tesla decided to try to renig on the deal. Since this is now ‘official’ policy, those of us who are several hundred miles from the nearest center can now at least have a worry-free warranty period. But, Consumer Reports is goofy. Or more correctly, crazy like a fox. The only thing I can see by their actions is that individuals are trying to game the stock price. Which it does seem to go up and down depending on how CR rates the car. But a “FIAT” gets listed and a Tesla doesn’t? C’mon. Unless they are using data such as Bjorn’s THIRD Drive train, presumably changed under warranty. SO if these things are like $30,000 a piece, does that mean a typical tesla owner of an “S” can expect to expend that much money per annum once the car is out of warranty? In my experience, with the Roadster, I always wondered what was going on with the tires. The rears went bald at 4000 miles, (I changed them at 6000 miles), but did my own… Read more »
I find your input always interesting and your experience with the Roadster would somewhat to be expected with a brand new car company and a brand new car, their first. Be that as it may, I believe the later vehicles are magnitude above the Roadster in all categories, including reliability. My overall take with the rather drastic change in attitude towards Tesla, is that while reliability problems were more than expected and therefore received more focus due to the change in attitude at CR. An analogy would be a parent and their treatment of a favorite vrs. an ill-favored child. Telsa’s position with CR has reversed. Once they were the ‘golden child’ now they ‘black sheep. I think CR got so much heat, from all quarters, on their ‘breaking the system’ snafu, which I think seems perfectly reasonable for that to be possible. Anyway to use a tired analogy they couldn’t stand the heat, so they had to get out of the kitchen. BTW CR’s current non-inclusion of Tesla due to reliability problems has had little effect, as their stock continues to rise. Historically in general I would agree that CR prognostications on Tesla as producing the best car ever,… Read more »

On the contrary, Tesla dropped their very unreliable special 2-speed transmission (In my opinion they should have left the standard manual transmission in place – and put in a smaller electric motor) – but in any event, I never had any trouble with the final Copper Rotor motor nor single-speed gear box.

Only a very few roadsters got out with anything deficient, and, the majority of those were supposedly changed out (although one of the roadsters locally still has the locked in place 2 speed shifter).

So, even though the Roadster was their first, they got the drive train to be pretty good.

But can’t say the same thing about the “S”. Obvious to me they hired the wrong people in their engineering department.

Unless, like Mercedes-Benz, its a “Status Symbol” to constantly need your car repaired.

Oh, I get it. You are saying that you got a lemon of a Roadster, and that in general they were better, drive train wise, than the Model S.

That is not what I am saying, no, since I decided to keep my car for a full 4 years, way past its warranty expiration. To the clown: Tesla told me the price for the Roadster Power Electronics module (which people have actually paid), and does *NOT* include replacement of the motor, gearbox nor differential, was $17,000 plus tax and shipping. The “S” has the motor, inverter, gearbox, and differential replaced all as one unit, unlike the Roadster.

Bill Howland said: “SO if these things are like $30,000 a piece, does that mean a typical tesla owner of an “S” can expect to expend that much money per annum once the car is out of warranty?” The idea that Tesla “drive units” may cost as much as $15,000 or more (really, Bill? $30,000?) and that a car may need multiple replacement units, is something that causes Tesla stock short-sellers to wet themselves. 😉 Sadly for them, the idea they’re trying to promote, that this is both true and commonplace, fails a reality check rather badly. According to a post on the Tesla Motors Club forum, the amount of money Tesla reserves for lifetime warranty costs on a Model S is between $2,700 and $3,800 (source below). Keep in mind, that’s Tesla’s estimated average cost per car for all warranty servicing and repairs — not just drive unit replacements and repairs. Furthermore, the oft-cited figure of $15,000 is what is rumored that one Tesla service center rep said when asked what an out-of-warranty replacement of the drive unit would cost. Even if we assume that this rumor is true, and that it’s a real figure, not just an off… Read more »

How did the Audi score higher than the BMW when the BMW had the highest road test-score and higher reliability than the Audi?

There’s an overall brand ranking, and then there are individual car rankings. Audi, brand-to-brand, scored the highest.

You misread the chart; red means good. Audi had higher reliability than BMW. The key on the bottom of the chart says red is better than white, and much better than black.

That 2 models story-line seems bogus to me. They bought a standard S, and a “Ludicrous” S.

I suppose they are totally different cars. That just happen to coincidentally have drive train problems.

Yep, just look at them.

Can you even tell that the 85 S and P90DL come from the same company?

Totally different.


Hehe, yeah, not remotely alike – even the seats may be a different color!

This is especially humorous when reading the Detroit Electric article. Exactly the opposite.

I wish Tesla best reliability for Model 3, they will need it, imagine they must change 500.000 drive units, damm!
I am very satisfied with my Leaf (Japan version), no problems at all. Where i am shocked is the rust of our used Toyota Hybrid, we no really saw it when bought, but no after changing tyres and looking in boards, it looks like a normal Toyota problem. So every car has its problems.

You made a strange omission in your quote about “insufficient data”. It says right in the table you included that, “A brand must have at least two models with test and reliability data to be included.” Obviously Tesla does not have two models with reliability data with the Model X only just now starting to go out to customers and production and sales of the Roadster having ended years ago.

To be fair, that’s only found in the fine print at the bottom. I searched that chart several times for “Tesla”, and very nearly gave up before reading the fine print.

At the most recent conference call, Musk said Tesla is seeing only a tiny fraction of the service visits it used to see.

Yeah, the only US brand in first half(top15) is Buick, from there we go…

From shareholder letter:

“Reflecting our philosophy of continuous improvement, we have not relaxed our pursuit of making the world’s most reliable cars. The
cost of first year repair claims on cars produced in 2015 was at about half the level of cars produced in 2014, and about one quarter the level of cars produced in 2012.”

Note that they claimed cost reductions, and not visit reductions.

I’d also like to see second and third year claims. First year claims are a result of poor quality control, not a function of long term reliability.

I imagine you didn’t see Robert’s comment on number of visits, a couple posts above yours

Robert was probably referring to the shareholder letter.

I wonder whether CR also recommends Audi’s “clean diesel” (cough) models. Because it says they recommend 100% of their models.

Or is illegal pollution, and lying on pollution tests not a consumer issue?

It’s a consumer issue. But what you are consuming is polluted air, which could lead to consumption.

I assume by that assumption you are the top assumer in this here thread.

Good assuming, as always. Let us assume together.

That’s a good point. They did suspend recommendations in November for VW, Audi and Porsche models affected by the scandal. erhaps there are new models that haven’t been tested yet?

I’ve owned a few German cars and Japanese cars. I am definitely no apologist for Tesla, as I think their reliability is laughable, but I have to wonder about their metrics when Honda gets an ‘average’ on the reliability index, and Audi gets above average. Something smells…

The smell is Honda. Their reliability has dropped and Audi’s has improved, significantly.

In the J.D. Powers Vehicle Dependability Study “the number of problems with infotainment, navigation and in-vehicle communication systems —collectively known as audio, communication, entertainment and navigation or ACEN— has increased and now accounts for 20% of all customer-reported problems in the study.” “ACEN is now the most problematic area on most vehicles and is the cause of the industry’s 3% year-over-year decline in vehicle dependability.”

Perhaps metrics for ACEN negatively impacts the Consumer Reports reliability ratings for some brands more than others.


Yes, I agree.

Honda’s infotainment system sucks.

Just keep your phone connected to the bluetooth system is a pain. It gets dropped all the time while it never has any issues with other brands of cars that we own.

TSLA stock doesn’t seem to be effected by this news….actually up 3 points.

You mean ‘affected’

I think case effective is correct.
successful in producing a desired or intended result:

Now if he had of said buyers of the stock, then not affected would have been correct as it would refer to the emotional state of the people interested in the stock.
A tricky point, but I give the nod to bro199.

Nope, “Stock affected by news.” See: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Affected_vs_Effected

That the Model S has more problems than most is hardly news. Lots of problems. I think that CR just finally got shamed into adhering to its own standards about recommendations.

The people I know love their Model S but have problems all the time. I would not, however, say the cars are crap. The parts themselves seem to be of very high quality. Design or assembly or both would appear to be the issue.

Also, rot starts at the top, and Musk simply doesn’t care about quality. He just wants it done. If you doubt that just look at his ridiculous response to all the Roadster problems in “Revenge of the Electric Car”. Standing in a showroom of Roadsters, all of which have a DIFFERENT quality problem (which is bad bad bad), his answer is for them to call him even at three in the morning. As if that would help. At all.

I drove a Nissan leaf for 37,000 miles and did not have one single problem with it. If Nissan will produce a 200 mile electric leaf in the near future I will definitely return to the leaf.

How does the LEAF do in reliability ratings?

What about the BMW i3?
I believe CU is giving it a “worse then average” reliability rating.
But, what could go wrong, it’s a very simple car.

As far as reliability, i3 BEV is good. i3 REx sucks. I’m not sure if CR lumps them together or not for ratings.

These quality issues could spell the end for Tesla. They really need to step up their game for the model 3 or the service costs will eat them up.

I like the addition of an Overall Score. People here were confused when the Model S lost its Recommended rating even though it scored so highly on the road test. The Overall Score combines all the factors that go into making a car one of the best or one of the worst: road test performance, reliability, owner satisfaction and safety.

Consumer Reports is not trying to game the stock price, geesh. For as long as I can remember (15 or 20 years?) Consumer Reports has excluded manufacturers from their brand rankings if they don’t have sufficient data.

One can argue that CR is goofy. They are in some ways. But it’s not conspiratorial.

A score of 77 for the Model S is still a very good score, anyway. If Tesla is successful at improving reliability they should be able to reclaim top spot someday.

It’s not only the road test where the Tesla Model S scores very highly on Consumer Reports‘ ratings. On their reliability “survey results” chart, the Model S scores “Excellent” in many categories — including “Drive system” — and the worst rating on the chart is “Fair”. So it’s bizarre that overall, they give it a “Poor” rating!

I think your characterization of “goofy” is an apt description. At the least, CR owes everyone an explanation of how they arrived at a “Poor” rating for a car which, in their breakdown categories, scored so highly.


Well according to CR’s data themselves the drivetrain issues on newer Model S are very good now but some other categories have become problematic. This is a natural result of growing pains for a still small company that is rapidly growing.

In any case, the S still outscores half the models in its segment and it still has by far the best customer satisfaction ratings in the industry. Many of the German luxury brands have had much worse reliability problems at times too.

It seems it general expensive cars are less reliable than rather cheap cars…

I wouldn’t consider Audi’s cheap cars.

It’s show that ev are just like ice. First year of any model has the most problem.

I never get this…

Why does Buick do so much better than Chevy and Cadillac when they are pretty much built and designed by the same team…

Is that because Buick owners don’t whine as much or is it because Chevy and Cadillac owners are too dumb?

Does anyone realize this may be the Model III? The car looks taller with a shorter wheel base – proportions look different from Model S.
Look at the rear quarter panel. No complex curves.

@OP Mark Kane, Wow…your articles on InsideEV are usually top-notch but I believe this article is poorly done. In particular, your news account that “…However, Tesla Model S reliability problems, which first forced CR to drop its recommendation, now seems to be preventing the car from taking another best overall vehicle title…” is misleading because: #1. In the article you reference the CR Report “Which Cars Make The Best Cars”, but you fail to mention that Tesla was automatically disqualified from the report because as stated on the above CR report footnote “a brand must have at least two models with test and reliability data t be included”…which knocks out Tesla because Tesla currently offers only one model, the Modle S. As a side note, this is the first time CR made the “must have two models” qualifier…which oddly has never before been a CR criteria. #2. You do not put into context that the majority of the Models S reliability issues that caused CR from dropping Models S from its “Recomend Designation” was due to Models S reliability issues primarily on early 2012 & 2013 initial models years which those items items have since been addressed by Tesla. #3.… Read more »

I disagree, because you are one happy owner which is insignificant sample size.

On contrary, the author just reports what other outlets are stating. He did not opine, he was just forwarding CR’s message, whether right or wrong.

@Mxs said: “…the author just reports what other outlets are stating…”

Incorrect…the author, be it by design or sloppy reporting, conflated snippets of CR completely void of context.