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


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

Category: Tesla

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51 responses to "Poor Reliability Means Tesla Model S Is No Longer Consumer Reports’ Best Overall Car"
  1. Bill Howland says:

    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 engineering and put much beefier tires on that lasted 18,000 miles. (Much better for the environment since I wasn’t having huge amounts of rubber dust run off into streams and creeks).

    Tesla initially said “These tires have been EXPRESSLY designed for the ROadster”, to which I replied, “Oh yeah? How come the Lotus ELISE has the EXACT SAME TIRES, and its a much, much lighter car?”. (The battery is just too heavy for the ELISE – perhaps that is why Detroit Electric is using the Exige, a larger car, and a lighter battery).

    Local Tesla owners (2) wanted to know exactly what tires I put on my car, so that they didn’t have to go to Toronto Canada every 4000 miles. Eventually, even Tesla wanted to know what I used to make the tires last much longer. The only tire option Tesla had at the time had even LESS wear than the 4000 mile standard tires.

    My mileage went up by about 25 miles after I changed the tires and readjusted the camber to be within spec, something Tesla refused to pay for since it was obviously a manufacturing defect. Much less tire squirming meant the tires ran cooler, and didn’t convert my mileage into electric heat.

    But I thought this was OLD NEWS. It’s been “NOT RECOMMENDED” for a long time now.

    1. ffbj says:

      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, was helpful to the stock, but now that correlation no longer exits.

      The swarmy way CR is backing out of listing the Model S/X now is just way a whipped would back away from a whip.
      CR touts themselves as reliable, credible, outlet for rating products. In the case of Tesla they got really burned, so they decided not to touch that stove again.
      Once bitten twice shy.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        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.

        1. ffbj says:

          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.

          1. Bill Howland says:

            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.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      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 the cuff guess, my guess is that this would be the cost for an entirely new unit with no trade-in value from the old unit. That is, only if every part of the unit — motor, inverter, PEM, gearbox and whatnot — had to be trashed.

      The reason that drive unit replacements are relatively common (altho, of course, not nearly as common as TSLA shorters want us to believe!) is because, rather than make the customer wait while the Tesla service center tears down the unit, diagnoses the problem, and installs new parts, they instead swap out the entire unit for a refurbished one, then send the one that needs servicing back to the factory for repair.

      Let’s keep in mind that the most common drive unit problem is the “milling noise” problem, which is a problem in the gearbox. Anybody who thinks that it will actually cost $15k or more to simply replace a simple fixed-ratio gearbox… well, they must be on drugs.

      Let’s also keep in mind that many or most drive unit replacements are not a result of anything the customer has complained about; they’re a result of a Tesla service rep noticing a noise when the car was brought in for routine maintenance or for some other problem, and the drive unit was swapped out as a preventative measure, to ensure it never turned into a real problem. I think it’s safe to say that for out of warranty service, many or most Model S owners would elect to wait to see if the potential problem turns into an actual problem, before paying for replacement.


  2. Elroy says:

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

    1. kubel says:

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

    2. sven says:

      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.

  3. Bill Howland says:

    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.

    1. Nick says:

      Yep, just look at them.

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

      Totally different.


      1. Bill Howland says:

        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.

  4. Alex says:

    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.

  5. Christopher says:

    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.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      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.

  6. Robert says:

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

  7. Lunguuks says:

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

  8. Robert says:

    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.”

    1. Three Electrics says:

      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.

      1. KumarP says:

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

        1. sven says:

          Robert was probably referring to the shareholder letter.

  9. Assaf says:

    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?

    1. ffbj says:

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

      1. Rick Danger says:

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

        1. ffbj says:

          Good assuming, as always. Let us assume together.

    2. Breezy says:

      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?

  10. Ryan Turner says:

    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…

    1. kubel says:

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

    2. sven says:

      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.


      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        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.

  11. bro1999 says:

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

    1. Ryan Turner says:

      You mean ‘affected’

      1. ffbj says:

        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.

        1. Mr. B. says:

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

  12. DonC says:

    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.

  13. M. St. John says:

    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.

    1. Nick says:

      How does the LEAF do in reliability ratings?

  14. Alpha777 says:

    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.

    1. kubel says:

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

  15. Someone out there says:

    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.

  16. Breezy says:

    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.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      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.


  17. Get Real says:

    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.

  18. PVH says:

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

    1. Acevolt says:

      I wouldn’t consider Audi’s cheap cars.

  19. Jychevyvolt says:

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

  20. ModernMarvelFan says:

    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?

  21. Will says:

    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.

  22. CDAVIS says:

    @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. You conflate various CR references in a way that make the references seem like they are related to a single CR report when they are in actual fact not.

    As a side note, I have first hand experience of Tesla reliability including currently owning a Model S90D and I can say that I have had zero service/reliability problems with my current Tesla.

    1. Mxs says:

      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.

      1. CDAVIS says:

        @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.