Tesla Model X Owners Report A Raft Of Problems

Tesla finally has production of the Model X SUV going at full speed. After months of delays waiting for parts suppliers to get up to speed, the company is making about 750 Model X cars a week. But now that they are getting more plentiful on the road, reports of significant technical issues are starting to pile up.

Tesla Model X

One owner moaned to the Wall Street Journal that those lovely falcon wing doors wouldn’t open when she tried to drop her kids off at school. “It’s a bummer,” she said. “You spent all this money . . . and the doors won’t open.” She is one of the lucky ones. At least her car is still driveable.

Byron Deeter tells Fortune his Model X is home in the driveway while he drives his Jeep Grand Cherokee to work. The electrically activated door on the driver’s side won’t latch. “I could manually close it, but the car couldn’t sense that the door was shut, so the electric control wouldn’t latch,” says Deeter. “Yesterday, I literally drove to a meeting holding the door closed.”

He reset his car’s computer but the problem quickly reoccurred. Except now the electronic emergency brake engages every few feet while backing up. Oh, and the driver’s window won’t close. When he called his local Tesla service center, he was told they were fully booked until the third week in May.

Consumer Reports posted on Tuesday that it is hearing from many Model X customers who are experiencing all sorts of annoying glitches with their cars. On Wednesday, Tesla sent this e-mail to CR: “We are committed to making the world’s most reliable cars. While we have seen some issues with early Model X builds, the issues are not widespread, and we are working closely with each owner to respond quickly and proactively to address any problems. We will continue to do so until each customer is fully satisfied. This commitment is one of the reasons why 98 percent of our customers say they will buy another Tesla as their next car.”

Elon Musk has gotten involved. He responded to a tweet from a disgruntled customer that Tesla has now added a second layer of quality control inspectors on the assembly line.

Musk assures people that many of the issues have now been fixed and that the cars coming off the line now have upgrades that will address many of the issues people have been having with their cars. A few weeks ago, Tesla discovered that the hinge and latch mechanism on the third row seats could fail, allowing the seat back to fly forward in a collision. The company says the hardware has now been redesigned and the changes incorporated into all newly manufactured cars.

While Tesla has established an enviable record of responding to customer complaints in a timely and user friendly way, a perception is growing that its early customers are really beta testers for products that are not quite ready for prime time. That raises concerns about Tesla’s headlong rush toward autonomous driving technology. As Byron Deeter told Fortune,  “This is a huge reminder that 99% complete software isn’t sufficient when it comes to moving people.”

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.