Tesla Wants Drive Units That Never Wear Out

Tesla Model S

Tesla got slapped around by Consumer Reports recently when the testing and rating service removed the Tesla Model S from its list of recommended cars. Consumer Reports said that in its latest survey, too many owners complained about sunroofs that rattled and door handles that failed, But the thing that really got their attention was the number of Tesla motors and drivetrains that failed and needed replacement. Such failures could potentially leave customers with a huge repair bill.

During this week’s conference call with stock analysts, Tesla CEO Elon Musk addressed the issue. “We transitioned to automatic grease injection into the spline of the large drive unit – we had variation in how much grease was put into the spline and if not enough grease was put into the spline, it would have premature wear.” He also chided Consumer Reports by noting that Tesla owners are more satisfied with the service they get at their factory authorized repair facilities than the owners of any other marques, including such luxury manufacturers as Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Lexus.

In truth, while Tesla has experienced some failures of its drive units (one owner had his motor replaced three times), it has also stepped up to address the problem. Among other things, it extended the factory warranty on its powertrain, including the battery, to 8 years with no mileage limitation.

Now Musk and his team want to go even further. Says Musk, “We are very happy with the quality of the drive unit. We changed the goal of the drive unit endurance from being approximately 200,000 miles to being a million miles – just basically we want drive units that just never wear out. That’s our goal. I think we made really good progress in that direction. The drive units that are going out now and for the last several months have been excellent.”

Take that, Consumer Reports! Instead of doing business the usual way and denying factory repairs once a relatively short warranty period expires, Tesla has extended is factory warranty voluntarily and is continuously working to improve the quality of its products. That sure sounds like the kind of ethical business practices that deserve a favorable recommendation.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.