TrueDelta: Tesla Is Least Reliable Automotive Brand – Model S Repair Frequency Is 2 To 3 Times Worse Than Average


TrueDelta Logo

TrueDelta Logo

It seems that when Consumer Reports declared that the Tesla Model S was no longer recommended another automotive survey firm by the name of TrueDelta sprung into action to declare that it’s about time Consumer Reports updated its Tesla rating to “(almost) agree with what TrueDelta has been reporting for years.”

In fact, shortly after Consumer Reports made its announcement, TrueDelta posted this to its Facebook page:

true delta

TrueDelta Facebook Post

Upon seeing this Facebook post, we figured why not dig deeper into TrueDelta’s data. In regards to reliability by brand, from 2012 through 2015, this is what we found:


TrueDelta Reliability By Brand

Okay, so what about Model S reliability in general?  Well, according to TrueDelta data there doesn’t seem to be an indication that reliability has improved by much over time, which runs counter to what Elon Musk stated just the other day:

TrueDelta Ratings For Model S

TrueDelta Ratings For Model S

So, this got us thinking, perhaps electric cars score poorly using TrueDelta’s metrics. Why not compare the Model S to the Nissan LEAF then to see if this is true. Turns out the Nissan LEAF is one of the most reliable cars out there today:


leaf model s

TrueDelta Rating Model S & Nissan LEAF

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86 Comments on "TrueDelta: Tesla Is Least Reliable Automotive Brand – Model S Repair Frequency Is 2 To 3 Times Worse Than Average"

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Land rover is not on the chart

Jag not on the chart either.

Secondly, the CMAX has better reliability rating then the Volt.
That’s the opposite of CU’s stats.

We will see how that affects Tesla resale values.

The truth is getting out despite all the fanboy attempts to downplay these issues in the past (or even the Tesla CEO stating back in 2014 that a 50-cent shim will solve most drivetrain issues…).

Musk is a relentless stock promoter.

Who is TrueDelta? Are they funded like Consumers Reports? The doomed 80-100 mile Leaf could just be a foil, to make some believe they are EV-neutral.

I dont get how this is published, as though the Leaf endorsement makes what they say about Tesla true. C’mon guys.

TrueDelta is actually a pretty reliable source, and well known on car forums.

The owner (Michael K.) has been posting on vehicle forums for many years, inviting people to share their experiences. He does this on almost every vehicle forum, so there’s no bias/agenda IMO.

I’ve been reporting data since the beginning (close to 10 years iirc?), and the website allows you to be very thorough with reporting any type of service (including follow-up repair jobs, how it was paid for, etc.).

In fact, I trust TrueDelta more than Consumer Reports. The website has come a long way, and it’s still extremely easy to chat with the owner.

I’m surprised the site hasn’t been acquired yet by one of the big players (Kelly Blue Book, CR, etc.).

Consumer Reports has a problem with “Non-selection bias” also.

With the s***ty review they do of hybrids in general, they get a lot of hybrid owners who WILL NOT participate.

Wow, the trend is not Tesla’s friend. You would think they would be getting more reliable, not less.
Tesla needs to get on the stick and work on Quality Control.

I think the overall conclusion is that while quality may be improving, Tesla’s consumer base is shifting from people who tend to tolerate growing pains, over to normal people who do not.

Fanboys and early adopters tend to withhold data that is critical of a brand. But once this wears off, they start reporting problems.

In other words, Tesla Model S was never a reliable car (by the standard we use for other brands), but it does have high customer satisfaction.

This is a known and measurable effect.
Partly indicated by the high percentage, 97% who would buy the car again, much higher than the nearest rival, in the 60’s.

That 97% is early adopter fans of Tesla and BEV’s. That number will only go down.

It would have to go down quite a bit to get even close to the 2nd highest rated vehicle.
No what these are really showing is that will stick by Tesla because it is such a great car and so much better than anything else on the road, that the little problems it has are inconsequential compared to having to give up these marvelous vehicles.

Only if the driver experience goes down.
Highly unlikely.

Very likely after the initial waranity.

No, the data shows that the number of repair trips per car increased from MY 2013 to 2015. Presumably they adjust this for the bathtub curve.

Summary: Fewer fanboys/early adopters are buying the car, and more normal people are getting the car, so fewer owners are withholding reliability data as more normal people are starting to drive the car and aren’t cutting Tesla as much slack. But there is no actual decrease in reliability or quality.

That sounds reasonable. It also sounds like Tesla still needs to address reliability.

That does sound reasonable, but it’s also speculation. There’s no hard data to support the hypothesis that more people are reporting the same effects, especially because customer satisfaction has not decreased over time.

Consumer Reports‘ “Customer satisfaction” rating is the percentage of owners who answered “Yes” to the following question (paraphrased): “If you had it to do all over again, would you still buy the car?”

But the satisfaction rating has gone down, from 98% to 97%. That doesn’t sound like much, but consider this: The number of people who said “No, I wouldn’t buy it if I had it to do all over again” has increased from ~2% to ~3%. That’s a ~50% increase. And while it may be dangerous to make a conclusion from a percentage that’s so low — what is the margin of error in that sample size? — it is at least compatible with the idea that over time, the percentage of Tesla buyers who self-select for being “cheerleaders” has gone down.

And really, it’s simply common sense. The cheerleaders would self-select for being the most eager of early adopters, so it’s only natural they would be more likely to buy a Tesla car before anyone who’s less enthusiastic about Tesla Motors and its vision.

Or with the release of the P70D and P85D, those cars have twice as many motors that can start whining or fail.

Look at the repair trends as well as powertrain repairs. There is a significant decrease. Wasn’t able to find the sample size, that’s too bad because in terms of statistics you have absolutely no idea of how valid this data is.

Engine (14%)
Transmission (0%)
Brakes (4%)
Suspension (7%)
Electrical and AC (21%)
Body and Trim (54%)
Other (0%)

I’d like to know what makes up the 54% Body and Trim issues 2015 Model S owners are repairing.
I guess if you pay over $100K for a car you nit pick every detail.


Maybe while using INSANE mode the car went too fast and a bug left a dent on the hood.


Door handles come to mind…

Door handles, leaks, windshields cracking, etc.

+1 Our family’s 2014 MS85 with 30K miles has had: – Sunroof issues (5 SC visits to resolve). While they replaced the drive unit, it was most likely fine and just needed adjusting. No more issues. – Door handles (one time issue–SC replaced all four handles) No more issues. – Interior rattles (dash, trim panels). These are annoying in a car as quiet as the Tesla, but the SC has fixed them all. – Front Seat belt retractors were replaced due to a latching problem. Issue resolved. – Rear taillights were replaced multiple times due to water condensation. Requested SC not wash car anymore during visits. Issue resolved. – Drive unit clicking sound @ 25K miles: Fixed by regreasing the splines. Issue resolved. – Drive unit whining sound when accelerating/decelerating (@ 28K). SC didn’t have tools or training initially. Waiting for SC to get tools to repair. (Currently unresolved). Most of these issues were minor and none were safety related (except for seat belts) or left us stranded on the side of the road. Some issues were a problem because the car is so much quieter than an ICEmobile. All were covered under warranty and Tesla provides awesome loaners (P85Ds,… Read more »

Thanks for taking the time to post.
Interesting list of problems and their resolutions. Yeah cars are a pain sometimes with all the things that can go wrong.
Learning as they go along.

Tesla has made a very complicated car with tons of features not found on other vehicles and tons of parts made in house. They’re also new to car mass production. So it’s not surprising they’re low on the reliability scale. It _is_ surprising that the data seems to suggest the later models are getting less reliable – maybe due to the kind of people buying in later years having less tolerance for problems? I hope it’s something like that rather than actual quality deteriorating. I bought mine certified pre-owned with 4 year warranty and couldn’t drive it off the lot because HEATER ELECTRIC BATTERY HEATER (part 1038901-00-E) failed. I’m very glad it happened before I drove away from the Fremont factory or it could have been an ordeal being stuck at the next supercharger on the way home… Tesla gave me a credit card and said go eat dinner wherever you want with my wife and father, so we did, and it was fixed by the time we got back. That level of customer service is unheard of in my experience and is probably why customer satisfaction is so high. They’re even going to fix a small dent in the… Read more »

A Tesla cant have a fifth the parts an ICE has. “Uncomplicated” is the appeal of electric drive. It is actually simple. Maybe think of how an ICE needs to mechanically convert reciprocating, to rotating energy, or the need for multiple gears. It’s no contest. Gas engines are far more complex.

EV drive is inherently simpler than ICE, but Tesla has added a lot of complexity not found in other EVs like the Leaf. Liquid battery cooling/heating, retractable door handles, extra sensors to turn lights on/off automatically, autopilot, power seats in base model, cell network car updates, giant touch screen with a lot of CPU behind it, and I don’t know what else. Even the 12V battery heater that failed in my car sounds like something that might not exist in any other EV/ICE.

The post is very interesting to me. I have a lot of similar small issues with my EV (issues with a rear door handle not working correctly, rattling noises in the inside around the door and one of the seats, issues with the weather proofing allowing leaks, condensation in headlights, issues with auxiliary audio port not working reliably, and a failure of the smartphone app’s ability to connect with the car) but I would never bother to take my car in to be serviced for any of these things because 1) I hate the service center at my dealership and don’t want to deal with them for such minor issues, 2) I won’t get a loaner car from them while they do the repairs, and 3) it is only a lease and I don’t have the car long-term. I wonder if this behavior is common enough to skew these reliability results. My car brand is significantly higher in the reliability results than Tesla for both the CR ratings and this one, but I wonder how useful these surveys really are.

Also, this makes me think of Apple. I have had several Macs over the years, and I have probably been to the genius bar for a hardware issue an average of once a year since owning them, most of the time for some minor issue. A dead pixel on one laptop and a clicking sound that was coming from the dvd drive. An issue with a usb port or a keyboard that stopped working. I never went to a computer repair store for any of the computers I had before I owned Macs, but it would definitely be a mistake to think that those computers were more reliable. I would just deal with all the issues I encountered on those computers (and believe me, there were innumerably more) instead of deal with a computer repair store that I feared would ridicule me for complaining about such minor issues or charge me an exorbitant amount.

F0R that reason I’m 0UT!

Wow! Tesla makes stellar quality transmissions! 0% failure. Kudos to them.

Does Tesla make them? Perhaps they are so reliable because they are one of the things out-sourced? Borg-Warner was involved at some point… MW

You don’t know how valid the sample is. It depends on the “n” or how big the sample size. Tesla made huge gains on quality and reliability. Ask anyone who has older or “classic” models. Way to go to insideevs for not doing all checks and supporting the EV movement. No surprise you’re just like the mass media.

if i interpret the first graph right, it is only n=2 for tesla

if you look at the number of repairs that are listed for MY 2013 and MY 2015 (100 total), you can calculate that n = 125.

If this is infact True…..,It’s scary scary scary …I would wanna purchase A Tesla ,not Go to work for them ..

If I’m reading the “Car Reliability By Brand” chart correctly, there were 200 Teslas in the sample size. There is a 2 in parenthesis next to Tesla, and at the bottom of the chart it says “per 100 Cars.”

If you look at the breakdown, it appears most of them are issues with the bodywork & trim. Also, if you go to truedelta, you can get specific information about the problems and judge for yourself if you think they are minor.

14% of 80 repairs, still means 11 new drive units / 100 cars a year.

Refurbished. Tesla replaces the drive unit, ships them back to base, fixes and issues them as refurbished units for the replacement in another car.

There are apparently lots of revisions of the drive unit.


of the 14% drive unit failures I wonder how they are distributed between plain Jane model S’s, the “P”‘s, and the “Ludicrous mode” ones.

Since the motor, inverter, and gear reducer are all one assembly, I’d assume “0 transmission failures” is lumped in with the ‘engine’.

Something that used to be quiet and is now whining means that something is wearing… Thats ok for perishable parts, but the motor, gearbox and inverter used to be assumed to last the life of the car.

TrueDelta gets its data from its members. That seems about as scientific as a CNN poll.

I should edit what I posted: I meant an “on-line” poll. I’m sure CNN is capable of commissioning a scientific poll.

Online? Wow! We and Amazon know how truthful those online polls/reviews can be.


For what it’s worth, these two polls on on drive unit failures give some sobering statistics. In one poll 30.61% of respondents reported a drive unit failure. In the other poll 30.31% of respondents reported a drive unit failure.

What you failed to mention was that the poll consisted of 98 Voters. What you didn’t know was that my cousin who doesn’t own a Tesla is one of the people who voted Yes, his your drive unit failed. He hates Tesla because he is anti-EV.


I’ll bet you didn’t know that *my* cousin doesn’t own a Tesle either–but he voted no because he loves EVs.

If This is a fact.,I wonder Who Is Paying Who & How much ….$$$$…must make it worth to tell such Lies….

sven said:

“For what it’s worth, these two polls on on drive unit failures give some sobering statistics. In one poll 30.61% of respondents reported a drive unit failure. In the other poll 30.31% of respondents reported a drive unit failure.”

Or to put it another way: 30% of less than 100 people who chose to seek out and respond to a poll on the Tesla Motors Club forum specifically asking about drive unit replacements, reported that they had at least one replacement.

That is statistically meaningless. In fact, every poll that doesn’t use random sampling is statistically meaningless, unless what you’re researching is the psychology of people who choose to respond to unscientific polls.

Exactly. If every 30 cars out of 100 had to have a drive unit replaced Tesla would be Out of Business.

Exactly. It’s not a Random Sample.
And neither is Consumer Reports.

It’s a Biased sample of people who’ve had issues.

Statistics: “Self Selection Bias”.

There are only 2 Tesla owners listed???

How much statistical value do those numbers then have?

i correct, the (2) seems to be to the logged MY.

75 repairs listed for 2013 and data for 2015 is listed at 25 repairs.

To get to 80 repairs /100 cars in 2013, there should be a little bit below 100 tesla owners listed for 2013. To accieve the same number, there seems to be around 20 teslas listed for MY 2015.

So this data is based on 100 repairs and concludes 80/100 cars needed repairs. Meaning the whole number of cars participated is bf\{125}.

Sad revelation for Tesla.

I don’t have the time to research, but I wonder how Model S reliability compares to other similarly-priced cars. Maybe the 1%’ers complain more.

Wow… Fiat is more reliable. This just tugs at me so, much, it doesn’t make that much sense. An EV being less reliable. I’m not sure if anyone can relate, but I remember of a Model S review. The reviewer compared its acceleration and so on, to a comparable Audi R7 or R6 or whatever it is now. If one just bought a performance ICE car, such as the R or A7, yes, purchase would be a factor of how fun it was. Driving an ICE fast, as any of us would know would make us feel sympathetic to the mechanisms involved. If you told your friend that your Audi’s transmission or engine or something vital failed after 6 months of ownership and you then described how you drove regularly, then he or she won’t blame the car. I wouldn’t drive the bollocks out of my sister’s Peugoet 1007, touching 4000rpm regularly. It’s painful and useless to do so for the craic. This was the difference that reviewer said about the Tesla. Due to the lack of drama and noise from the Tesla, it would understandably hide the fact that there would be wear involved and that lack of noise… Read more »

The old adage, ‘take car of your things and they will take care of you’ comes to mind.

Once upon a time I hopped into this guys pretty hot car, he was a mechanic. I
braced for the big takeoff, but the guy drove like an old granny. I learned a lesson that day about care in driving, and also maintenance. If you want something to last you take car of it.

Get a Toyota or Honda and you will find that adage isn’t entirely true. My Pontiac Vibe’s Toyota engine is indestructable and I do not drive like a grandma.

Don’t worry Fiat is not “more reliable”. they lump all repairs into the same pile. most of the Tesla repairs were from trim and body work. The car is so quite, you can here any rattle or squeak, and Tesla Owner take the cars in to get those fixed, because Tesla Service is good, friendly, responsive, and they usually give you a Model S loaner while the repairs are done.

Fiat had half shafts failing, on road, but since that is “1” instance of bad reliability it might not show in this study. Weather stripping and sunroofs probably show worse, as ranked.

I like how some slam Tesla, a new company with a completely new model/product that’s not even 3 years old but expect perfection but can’t afford the car.

Yet GM’s products has killed people.

It would be interesting if these statistics included cost of repair. Even warranty repairs have a cost, just not charged to the customer. Could it be that the Tesla repairs were nit-piks and others costly break-downs? Or visa-verse.

No Tesla Model S is old enough to be out of warranty yet. So very nearly the only data on the cost of out of warranty repairs would come from used cars that were not bought thru Tesla’s CPO dealerships.

For what it’s worth, though, don’t expect out of warranty service at a Tesla authorized service center to be cheap. They offer a superior level of service, and you get what you pay for.

But it’s also been said (I dunno if it’s true) that if you compare the cost of Tesla service to service on similarly expensive cars, Tesla comes out ahead. It’s said that Tesla maintenance is more expensive than maintaining the average car, but lower than average for a car with an average sales price of $95,000.

“No Tesla Model S is old enough to be out of warranty yet.”

Nope. The bumper-to-bumper warranty coverage on a Tesla is five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. There are plenty of Teslas with over 60,000 miles on them.

My model s started to have a slight hum at high speed which I mentioned when i needed a tire change. Without a discussion they replaced it with no extra hassle or expense for me. Obviously this would look bad on a survey but is much better than issues ive had with mercedes and jaguars that ive had. Ive had fuel injectors replaced on my jaguar for $6000 and its still not right after three trips to a very accommodating dealer. Things will go wrong with cars – Its how they are handled that make all the difference.

One thought has crossed my mind. How much more likely is it that a person calls for a repair when somebody comes to pick it up versus having to take it in yourself? I think that too much is going on with Tesla yet that we don’t understand. They still need to work on reliability though, because people don’t always look deeply into data before making a decision.

“My model s started to have a slight hum at high speed which I mentioned when i needed a tire change. Without a discussion they replaced it with no extra hassle or expense for me.”

If you did that at a Stealership it would cost you $65 diagnostic fee and additional $75/hr labor.

I agree that part of the reason reports of problems with Tesla cars seem to be increasing, rather than decreasing as nearly every post from an actual Tesla owner would lead us to expect, is likely due to an increasing percentage of Tesla owners who are not the earliest of early adopter Tesla cheerleaders, and that over time, the willingness of the average Tesla owner to ignore problems has gone down. In fact, I posted that very theory in response to a previous article on the subject here at InsideEVs. But let me play Devil’s Advocate here (or rather, play Tesla apologist): Tesla service departments are very pro-active in looking for even potential problems, far beyond anything that the customer has complained about. Looking for those and dealing with them before they turn into an actual problem. If the data TrueDelta and Consumer Reports are using is not just actual problems which customers have taken the car into the shop to get fixed, if they’re counting as separate items all the potential problems which Tesla service centers have identified and dealt with before they became an actual problem… Then Tesla is being unfairly judged for “unreliability” because they’re actually going… Read more »

ThombdBhomb said:

“TrueDelta gets its data from its members. That seems about as scientific as a CNN poll.”

This is an extremely relevant point.

If the numbers from TrueDelta are only from those who actively choose to report a problem, then the majority are going to come from those who have a complaint to make. That’s not a random sample; it’s a sample of only those who self-select for seeking out a place to report their experience, either positive or negative. People rarely seek out a place to report neutral experiences.

14% of all Model S owners have had problems with the drive? I flatly do not believe that. That’s more than 1 out of 10! If the problem was that frequent, then we’d see much, much more discussion about it on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

..and what are the odds TrueDelta, showing just over 100,000 car “owners”, had a good sample of Teslas? Like their website says “post your own repair histories”. It’s not like there aren’t paid stooges in social media. People wouldn’t be out to get electric cars. Would they?

Over at reddit, someone asked if truedelta was reliable.truedelta commented…

And more evidence for that theory is the phenomenal customer satisfaction ratings that Tesla has.

I have an early 2013 Model S and it certainly has had it’s share of problems. I didn’t even both washing the car much in late 2013 because it was in for service so often. At this point I have a new battery, new drive unit, four new door handles, new brake rotors, a new windshield, a new frunk latch, and a new rear camera. But this doesn’t really bother me because I was treated so well every time I took the car in for service. I got some awesome loaner cars with features and/or more power than my car and the car was always returned far cleaner inside and out than when I brought it in. They never gave me the slightest bit of attitude when I requested things. And the frequency of service visits has decreased dramatically in 2014 and 2015.

In contrast, our 2014 BMW i3 hasn’t needed to be serviced once. But it’s going back to the dealer as soon as the lease it up while we plan to keep the Model S until the 8 year / unlimited mile power train warranty is up.

I am both a True Delta contributor and a Tesla Model S owner, in addition to owning the Mercedes-Benz B Class ED and Toyota RAV4 EV Tesla powered cars. First, True Delta doesn’t just report problems; they actually have reports even if you do not have a problem. So, it’s not just a survey of people who want to complain. It’s not just the Tesla Model S that has problems, as both of their contract vehicles many of the same drivetrain problems. The RAV4 famously has nearly every Tesla component, at one point or another, fail on the car while the Toyota parts tend to not fail. Currently, the RAV4 is under a US government recall for Tesla drivetrain failures which makes the car become disabled, including losing its power steering and power brakes. A very serious problem, indeed. This problem is separate from the problem of excessive noise from the gearbox and motor assembly which the RAV4 also shares with the Model S. It appears now that the Mercedes B Class ED may also be experiencing the same drivetrain failures that the RAV4 has experienced. This makes sense that this issue is only now becoming apparent when we consider… Read more »

please excuse any typos or syntax errors above but I’m doing this via voice to text.

Due to your stature in the EV community, your comment is the most damning indictment of the drivetrain I have read yet.

Self-selected and small sample makes any conclusion worthless.

Even CR polling samples are not statistically correct. How likely is someone going to respond to a survey when everything is peachy vs a lot of issues?

Repairs are one of the worst things about Tesla.

Well, no so much the repairs but the parts. You can’t get parts from anyone but Tesla. So they kinda have a monopoly on things. They need to change that if they want to become a grown-up car company.

Are repairs on electric cars comparable to repairs on conventional cars? How to they score the type or severity of repairs so they are normalized to all cars?

No one mentioned the sample size. CR’s is 1200 I believe. What is true delta’s?

Until now my Leaf had ZERO problems. I know a Tesla driver, his women drives a Leaf and he also says Leaf is very reliable while he has his third drive unit.
Tesla must get this under control, every warranty case costs MONEY !

Annocdotal evidence, from viewers here even, is extremely troubling.

And when someone with the stature of Tony Williams says he is having problems with Tesla equipment on 3 different brands of vehicles, it is a flashing, screaming RED light of concern.