Tesla’s reliability as a manufacturer is ranked for the first time in 2016 by Consumer Reports. This is the first year in which Tesla has marketed two different models — the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV — long enough for customers to provide CR with reliability data. Tesla debuted on the annual rankings of 28 manufacturers in 25th place — one above Dodge and one below GMC. Earlier this year, Jalopnik gave the Model X the supreme insult, comparing its build quality to that of Jaguar before Ford bought the company and slowly made improvements. For a while, Jaguar suffered some of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any major manufacturer in the history of the auto business.
Tesla’s newest car, the Model X, has suffered from poor build quality since the very beginning. Tesla has somehow made a virtue of over-promising and under-delivering. The Model X was two years late going into production. The first dozen Model X cars were literally hand built one-offs delivered at a massively overhyped introduction event just hours before a deadline set by Elon Musk was set to expire. They were reserved for company officials, major investors, and other glitterati but the cars didn’t actually start rolling off the line in anything like normal production volume until more than 6 months later.
The Washington Post reports, “The Model X, which first rolled out to drivers last year and now starts at $74,000, was panned by drivers frustrated by problems with doors, locks, latches, power equipment, in-car electronics and the climate system. It ranked last for reliability among a dozen luxury mid-sized SUVs.” Uh, oh. That’s not good.
In response, a Tesla spokesperson told CNBC, the company is committed to “making the world’s most reliable cars.” The statement continues, “The amount of issues we’ve addressed with Model X has fallen by 92% in the last 12 months, a reflection of our ability to make continuous improvements and react quickly. This commitment is one of the reasons why Tesla won AutoPacific’s highest vehicle satisfaction award in 2016.”
Blame it on hubris. The signature characteristic of the Model X is its first in the world falcon wing rear doors. They are there because Elon Musk hates the sliding doors found on most minivans. He wanted a new solution, something that would make it easy to access the second and third row seats. When you work for Elon, you either turn his dreams into reality or you go to work someplace else. Those falcon wing doors have been the cause of most of the complaints about the Model X but there have been plenty of others, including interior trim bits that fall off and automatic front doors that close unexpectedly on the driver’s legs.
Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, says, “The Model X has a long way to go. It’s the sixth least reliable vehicle in our survey, and there are some monumental challenges with that vehicle. It’s unclear whether they will get the falcon wing doors right ever.” Tesla has instituted a number of software upgrades intended to fix the issues with the falcon wing doors, but it is almost three years since Elon first decreed that the Model X would feature those doors. Fisher may be right. Falcon wing doors may forever be an albatross around Elon Musk’s neck.
The good news? Consumer Reports has raised its reliability rating of the Model S sedan from below average to average. Yay!